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How to Protect Your Lower Back from Pain While Lifting Something Heavy

an African-American couple lifting heavy furniture

Acute back pain can be caused by a multitude of things, from auto accidents to falls to even sneezing hard. One of the most common causes is an improper lifting technique. These tips will help you protect your lower back when you’re lifting something heavy.

Back Injuries Caused by Improper Lifting

Heavy lifting can cause a back muscle strain or ligament sprain, most commonly in the lumbar region, which is the lower back. Another common, and potentially more severe injury that can be caused by lifting something heavy is a disc herniation in the lower back.

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The amount of force placed on the back while lifting heavy items makes injury probable if you’re not using the proper technique. These injuries can occur whether you’re lifting the item from the ground, lifting it straight overhead, or twisting while you lift. That’s because the movement involved in heavy lifting can be jarring when not done properly. Not coincidentally, lower back pain is one of the most common ailments in the world, with about four out of five people experiencing this condition at some time in their lives.

What are the Symptoms of a Disc Herniation or Back Strain or Sprain?

Symptoms of a muscle strain or sprain or a disc herniation in the lower back can include:

  • Sudden pain in the lumbar region—You may feel or hear a “pop”
  • Pain that worsens upon movement
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Compromised range of motion or muscle function—You may have trouble walking, standing, and/or bending


Tips for Protecting Your Back While Lifting Something Heavy

  1. Lift with your legs—We’ve all heard this numerous times, but what does it really mean?
  • Instead of bending at the waist, like we’re prone to do, bend at the knees instead.
  • Straddle the object so you have one leg on either side.
  • Use your legs to raise up.
  • Keep your back straight as you lift.
  1. Check the item first—You should be able to tell by giving the object a little push if it’s too heavy to lift. You also want to make sure it’s balanced. For example, a moving box that is heavier on one side can cause strain because it’s not equally distributing the load across your body.
  2. Spread the wealth—Any time it’s possible to lift equal amounts in each arm, do so. For example, it might not seem like grocery shopping can be harmful to your back, but loading just one arm up with multiple grocery bags could cause a back injury because of the uneven distribution of weight.
  3. Align your shoulder and hips and push your chest forward—This will help you engage your core and keep your back straight. The more you curve your back when lifting something heavy, the more likely you are to suffer an injury.
  4. Lift straight up—You’re much more likely to hurt your back if you twist your body while lifting. A better option is to keep your body straight and move your feet, allowing your hips to lead, instead of your shoulders.
  5. Keep it close—Holding the object in question at arm’s length puts undue stress on the lumbar spine. Holding it close to your body reduces the risk of injury.
  6. Go easy on yourself—Pushing yourself past your limits may end up hurting you—literally—in the end. Stretch first. Go at whatever pace feels comfortable instead of rushing, which would make it more likely to hurt yourself. And when in doubt, ask for help.
  7. Strengthen your core­—A strong core can help you stave off back pain and injury.

When To See A Doctor

Lumbar muscle strains and sprains and herniated discs may resolve by themselves. Many patients get relief simply by resting, using heat and/or cold therapy, and taking over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications like Advil. In some cases, however, doctor’s care is essential. You should seek medical care if:

  • You’re still in pain after one to two weeks
  • Your pain extends beyond your back to your arms or legs
  • You’re experiencing numbness in your legs or buttocks
  • You have weakness or instability in your hands, legs, or feet
  • Your pain is more extreme in certain positions
  • You have trouble sleeping because of the pain
  • You’ve developed problems with urination or bowel movements

When Conservative Treatments Don’t Work

Most people who have muscle strains and sprains and herniated discs get better without surgery. That’s our goal at the DISC Spine Institute: to use the most conservative treatment to achieve the best result possible. DISC Spine Institute prides itself on making every attempt to heal patients’ pain using non-surgical options first. We are known for our conservative approach, and for providing the best patient care in the industry.

When an acute injury becomes chronic or when the pain from the acute injury is extreme and pain is not mitigated by non-conservative treatments, we turn to minimally invasive surgical treatments. Minimally invasive surgery has revolutionized how back pain is treated and how patients recover and go on to enjoy their lives. Spinal centers like the DISC Spine Institute offer industry-leading, board-certified doctors who are specially trained to perform minimally invasive spine surgeries including:

Minimally Invasive DiscectomyDuring this surgical procedure, the portion of the disc that is putting pressure on the nerve and causing the pain is removed. A minimally invasive discectomy is performed through a very small incision less than an inch long. A small tube is placed between the muscle fibers to preserve muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Through this tube, specialized instruments and microscopes are used to create a small window in the bone. The nerves are gently moved to the side and the piece of disc material that is compressing the nerve is removed. This is typically only 10% of the disc. The remaining 90% of the disc is left intact.

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At the DISC Spine Institute, this procedure involves very minimal blood loss, is done outpatient, and is sutureless. Discectomy takes just 45 minutes to an hour and requires only a local anesthetic with no overnight hospital stay.

ForaminotomyMinimally Invasive Foraminotomy is performed through a very small incision in the back. A small tube is placed between the muscle fibers to preserve the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Specialized instruments and microscopes are then used to remove a small piece of bone and soft tissue, taking pressure off the nerve. This outpatient procedure involves very minimal blood loss and is sutureless.

LaminectomyMinimally Invasive Laminectomy is a type of decompression surgery performed through a one-half-inch long incision and with great care to preserve muscles, tendons, and soft tissue. The procedure takes about 45 minutes and patients are usually up and walking soon after it’s over. Since it’s an outpatient procedure, they’re able to return home within about an hour.

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About the DISC Spine Institute

Today’s minimally invasive procedures include outpatient treatments and easier surgical treatments with small incisions and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay. With several DISC spine centers located throughout Dallas-Fort Worth and staffed by top Board-certified orthopedic spine surgeons, DISC Spine Institute is well-prepared to help patients through their spinal conditions to get back to a pain-free life.

In Texas, treating back pain is easier than ever, with minimally invasive treatments that mean short hospital stays and shorter recoveries. You don’t have to suffer from back pain. Help is available at the DISC Spine Institute. Home to the leading DFW disc and spine centers, the DISC Spine Institute are experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.

Meet with Dr. Valente or Dr. Indresano in person at one of our 7 convenient DFW locations

Ready for life without back pain? Dr. Valente and Dr. Indresano are here to help. Submit your information and our staff will contact you shortly.

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