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Back Supports and a Healthy Back  (Part 1 of 3) 

We need to learn how these supports work,  and how to use them.  Let's take a look at our backs, back support belts and how they can help us protect our backs. 

Your back is made up of several parts, your spinal cord, bones, muscles and nerve endings.  The back supports your head and upper body.....but no more.  Backs are VERY fragile.  That is something that we all need to understand and be constantly reminded of.  A human back is not meant to lift with.  That is fact.  Your back supports your head and your upper body and that's it.  Why do we lift with our backs then?  Probably because we have never been educated as to how the back works and how we should work with our backs.  The main point.  There is no one who has a strong back.   

How do we lift and not use our backs?  Squat.  It is that simple.  We need to relearn how to lift by squatting.  No more bending over.  Laborer, Mechanics, Form Setters, Supervisors, all of us have to learn to squat.  If you find yourself lifting while bending over, or see someone lifting and they are bent over, stop them.  Explain that they are standing on the edge of an injury that will stay with them the rest of their lives.  We have to work together to lift safely.  If you have something that is too heavy for you to lift, say something that weights more than 50 pounds, get some help.  You are a human being, not a crane or loader.  We are a team, and lifting requires team work.  Even if something is light, but it is also large and bulky, get some help.  You may be able to lift something, but keeping control of what you lift is also important.  If you fall or drop something while carrying it, you may also injure your back. 

How can a back support belt help you?  The back support belt is not a cure all or a device that makes you super strong.  Back belts cannot help you lift any more than what you could without the belt.  The main purpose of the back belt is to support your lower back, add stability and encourage correct posture so that your back receives greater protection and less fatigue.  When used properly, a back support belt helps to maintain the correct curves of the spine by applying light pressure to the lower back.  The shoulder straps also assist in adjusting the belt to the curve of the back. 

We will continue to look at lifting and the use of back belts for the next few weeks.  Begin using your back properly.  Treat your back with care and respect.  Remind yourself each day that your back needs special care and attention, every time you lift. 

Part 2 of 3 

Wearing a back belt does not make you super strong, or allow you to lift anything heavier that you would normally be able to lift.  We have to use proper lifting techniques while wearing the belt.  Here are the five RULES OF LIFTING. 

(1)  Assess the object you are about to lift.  Be certain of how you intend to lift the object.  If the object is heavy, get someone to help you lift.  Think before you lift.  Not only do you have to consider the load you will carry, but you need to plan how you will carry the load.  Is the path you are going clear and passable?  Are there hazards that may cause you to trip or stumble.  All these factors need to be considered before you lift. 

(2)  Bend at your knees, not your waist.  Bend down with your knees and straddle the load you are about to lift.  Avoid bending at the waist and keep your back straight.   

(3)  Tuck your pelvis under and firm-up your stomach muscles just before you lift.  Tightening the stomach muscles helps support your back. 

(4)  Hug the object you are lifting close to your body.  Unnecessary and potentially dangerous amounts of stress and strain are placed on your back when objects are held away from your body.  If your elbows are more than two inches from your side when you squat to pick something up, than you should not make the lift.  Stop and get some help. 

(5) Lift with your leg muscles.  Once you have a firm grip on the object, slowly straighten your legs and FEEL the leg muscles doing the actual work of the lift. 

You do not need to have your back belt tight constantly while you are working.  Wear your belt loose when you are not lifting, then when you go to lift, tighten the belt down.  By wearing your belt loose when you are not lifting, you will allow your back muscles to be used normally without any restrictions. 

Lifting anything, no matter what the weight or size can cause you to hurt your back.  Using proper lifting techniques will help you to always lift safely.  Use your legs and not your back.

Part 3 of 3 

Lifting even something as light as a pencil can cause injury to the back, if the lifting procedure is done incorrectly.  Back belts do not make us supermen with strength we never had before.  These belts provide support for your back muscles so they don't get fatigued and they remind us to use correct lifting techniques.  We have been studying this for the past few weeks.  Here are some tips to help you keep your back healthy. 

When lifting keep your knees bent to flatten your back and relieve tired muscles.  When working low, bend your knees deeply to relieve back strain.  Plant your feet firmly and make sure that your footing is secure.  Dismount ladders and equipment slowly, lowering yourself with your hands.  Never jump off a piece of equipment or a ladder.  When climbing onto a piece of equipment or a ladder, make sure that your footing is secure.  Move a ladder instead of reaching.  Never climb on tables or chairs to reach something. 

When shoveling or using a rake, stand near your work instead of reaching.  Keep your hands widely separated for good leverage.  Lift with your knees and keep your back straight.  Don't twist. 

Use lifting and moving tools such as hoists, lifts, dollies, etc, to save work and strain.  Use these lifting tools carefully, making sure that you are not overloading a hoist or dolly. 

When you are driving keep your seat forward so that your knees are bent, higher than your hips.  Change positions often. 

Try doing some simple exercises to warm up your back.  Most athletes will warm up before they compete in their sport.  Have you ever seen football players just run out of the locker room and start playing.  They stretch and prepare themselves physically for the game.  We need to prepare ourselves for the physical work that we do each day.  A few exercises to loosen us up can help us prevent injury.

 

Your Physical condition has a lot to do with keeping your back healthy.  Have you done any warm up exercises before you started work today?  If not, take a minute and try some stretching exercises to get your body prepared to work.

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