Tip # 1: Visualize Proper Posture
Visualize a plumb line hanging from each ear lobe. In good posture, the plumb line will drop straight down from the ear lobe through the shoulder area, down the middle of the arm and through the anklebone. Your chin should be slightly tucked, and your shoulders should be slightly back and level. The pelvis should be shifted forward, allowing the hips to align with the ankles.
Tip #2: Minimize Bending and Twisting
One movement that tends to aggravate back pain—more than other activities—is bending and twisting simultaneously! Combined, these movements place force on the facet joints and the discs. Some people often bend and twist to pick an object off the floor, reach for the milk in the refrigerator, pull a file out of the cabinet, and so on.
An example of poor body mechanics.
Better mechanics would be to face the object and bend at the hips instead of the waist or squat. Keep the back straight. Use your legs and feet to position yourself close to the object to be picked up. Take a moment to think about using body mechanics to prevent injury.
Tip #3: Plan for Lifting and Carrying
Test the weight of the object to be lifted. An easy way to determine if you can lift it without assistance is to try pushing the object with your foot. However, even lightweight objects that are large in size, or cumbersome, may best be handled with assistance.
Next, determine what you will do with the object after lifting it. If moving the object to another location, clear obstacles out of the way. Plan the best way to hold or grip the object to keep it close to your body before lifting.
Position your body close to, and directly facing, the object. Place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart, to provide a stable base for your body. To turn directions, use your feet to pivot. Do not twist!
Depending on the shape of the object, try to hold it at the sides and bottom, and keep it close to your body. If possible, keep your elbows bent while carrying an object.
Use the muscles in your legs as the power for lifting, not the back! Bend the knees, keep the back straight, and lift smoothly. Repeat the same movements for setting the object down.
In this article, Dr. Garfin does an excellent job explaining the normal structure and function of the spine. The emphasis on body mechanics is also extremely important. As a spine surgeon, I firmly believe that a significant number of the patients I see use poor body mechanics when performing activities related to their daily personal lives and careers. This may contribute to both injury and spinal degeneration. I highly recommend this well-written article as necessary basic information for the physician and patient alike.