Lifting and/or carrying is a very common cause of back injuries. For many people lifting and carrying is an integral part of their daily employment and unavoidable. However, being desk bound does not mean that a person is not at risk of these injuries as sitting at a desk all day does not prepare you for weekend lifting when working in your garden or doing DIY around your house.

Before beginning a lifting task perform some preparation to reduce your risk. Test the weight of the object. Do you think you will need help to lift it? Either because of its heaviness or because it is an awkward shape to lift on your own. If you can, separate a heavy load into more manageable portions. If you have boxes to move make sure the contents are stabilised inside, you don’t want a heavy weight suddenly sliding around inside a box when you lift it. Finally, while carrying the weight check that your intended path is clear of obstructions and note any narrow areas or changes in elevation (steps or slopes) (

Once you have completed your survey of the task at hand it is time to begin with the lift. Face the object to be lifted directly and get as close as possible. Five kilograms held against your chest multiplies to 25 kilograms of weight (equivalent) when held at arms-length. Adopt a wide stance with one foot slightly in front of the other. Squat down by bending your knees and hips while keeping your back straight. This does not mean keeping your back vertical but rather that you do not round your back. Once you have a good grip of the object, hold it as close to your body as possible and then lift with your legs. Remember not to hold your breath. As you carry the object don’t twist from your hips when changing direction, rather turn with your feet. If you are faced with an object that you have to move along the ground try to push the object as opposed to pulling it. Once at your destination reverse your lifting procedure to lower the object. Bend your hips and knees while keeping your back straight letting your legs take the strain.

Just a short extra note on carrying bags. Current fashion seems to favour quite large bags. Unfortunately these large bags can weigh as much as 3 kilograms before you put anything in them! The lighter the better is definitely the way to go when considering a suitable bag purchase. Once you have your light bag, try to re-pack it each day with just your essentials and what extras you will need on the day. If you choose a back pack then position the straps to allow you to carry it high on your back and pack heavy objects low and close to your back in the bag. If you choose a single strap bag then try to wear it across your chest with the bag resting high on the back of your hip. Alternatively, when choosing a wheeled bag ensure that the handle extends sufficiently to prevent stooping.