Your body was made to move but in order to do this efficiently you have to learn how to work with your muscles and joints and not against them. Many persons strain their back muscles unnecessarily with careless, unplanned or hurried movements. According to an article by Medical News Today, 60 to 80 percent of persons in North America will sustain some form of back pain or back injury during their lifetime. They also state that back injuries are costly, with an estimated $31 million dollars spent on doctors’ appointments and treatments for back pain. You can help decrease your risk of back injury by using proper body mechanics.
What are body mechanics?
Simply put, body mechanics is a phrase that refers to how you move. The way you stand, bend, lift, reach, push and pull is affected by the body mechanics you use. Your back msucles and spine play significant roles in supporting your body during these activities and need to be protected by using good body mechanics.
To best understand body mechanics, it is a good idea to have a basic knowledge of your spine. Good body mechanics begin with good posture for your spine. Your overall posture ultimately affects how you feel. The spine is quite complicated and rightfully so considering all the parts of the body it has to support. According to Spine Universe, adults need to be educated in basic posture exercises to maintain proper spinal alignment.
Your spine is comprised of the spinal cord along with many muscles, nerves, ligaments, discs, bones and joints. When your spine is in a resting position the various components of the spine should have no stress and you should feel comfortable. In its natural, rested state the entire spinal column is not straight. It has three naturally curved areas (four if you consider the sacral area). Click here to view an Animated Anatomy Guide of the Spine, presented by Wed MD.
One thing to remember is that your back muscles, although strong, are also quite short as compared to the long muscles of your arms and legs. This is why you should get in the habit depending on your arm and leg muscles to help you work as opposed to relying on the shorter back muscles. You can easily strain, tear or otherwise injure the muscles of the back even with light activity if good body mechanics are not used.
General guidelines for good body mechanics
Many persons sustain back injuries when trying to lift an object too heavy to handle, or when they are in a hurry. Here are some basic guidelines to remember for good body mechanics. Make a conscious effort to practice these until they become a habit.
– Lift with your legs and not your back. The legs have strong, long muscles that can support the weight of a heavy object.
– Give yourself a good base of support when you stand, with your feet about 12 inches apart.
– Keep all weighted objects close to your body, especially when carrying heavy objects.
– Avoid bending at the waist. Squat instead, bending at the knees, while keeping your back straight.
– Always have a solid foundation for the task at hand.
– Wear appropriate shoes. It is easy to trip and twist your back if your shoes are too loose or floppy.
– Keep your back straight as much as possible whether you are sitting or standing.
– When reaching for an object overhead, avoid standing on the tips of your toes. Use a wide-based step stool so you are at a level closer to the item. You can better control the weight of the object this way.
– When sitting in a chair, keep your back straight and use a chair that has a good back support. Additional support in the lumbar region is also beneficial.
– Lift heavy objects with both hands. If the item has handles, use them. Trying to lift a heavy item with only one hand will cause a shift in weight as you pick it up. This will strain the muscles in your back.
– When turning, pivot or rotate your entire body at one time. Keep your hips and feet pointed in the same direction. Twisting at the waist while you are holding a heavy object can strain your back muscles.
– Pay attention to your posture, especially if your back is starting to feel tired. Even in a sitting position the back muscles can become strained if you are slouching or not sitting erect.
– Know your limits. If you know you need help to move a heavy or awkward object, ask someone to assist you. It’s safer to leave the object right where it is and spare your back muscles than to risk serious injury.
Don’t take your back for granted. Remember, your back is as old as you are and it needs to last throughout your life. Body mechanics, when used appropriately, can help you avoid injuring your back.
Medical News Today: “Causes and prevention of back pain and injuries”
Spinal Health: “Spinal anatomy”
The Spine Universe: “Use Good Body Mechanics to Help Keep Your Spine Safe”
Spine Universe: “Body mechanics 101”
Cleveland Clinic: “Posture for healthy back”
Web MD: “Anatomy guide – normal spine”