Combat the Daily Grind: Proper Lifting Techniques & Massage Therapy

It’s a fact: 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. As a Board Certified Massage Therapist (BCTMB), I’ve worked with many clients experiencing back pain—especially during this time of year, when many of my regular clients share stories of finally finding the courage to clean out the garage or basement, help a friend move into a new place, or plan to move their children to the college dorm. Their productivity is contagious! 

With that said, it’s important all of us are aware of the proper lifting techniques and posture required to avoid the infamous “Oh, my back!” that causes certified massage therapists and clients alike to cringe! In this month’s blog, we will explore:

  • What can happen to our body when we lift something heavy,
  • Highlight some tips for proper lifting techniques, and
  • Benefits of regular visits with your Board Certified Massage Therapist (BCTMB) to assist in pain-relief and help to prevent future injuries.

What Happens to Your Body When You Lift Heavy Objects

We all know what it feels like to lift something we shouldn’t have—but have you ever stopped to think about what’s actually happening to your body when you lift that heavy box?

The best way for me to explain is to share from personal experience. When I was a child, my father claimed that his hobby was “fixing up old cars”. I cannot actually recall him getting any of them to be road worthy as such, but one day in the early 1970’s, he stooped to pick up the car battery and twisted with the battery in hand. There it was… that instant, sharp, agonizing pain and the beginning of his chronic back pain history!

When we begin with a poor stance, all the weight of the object we are attempting to lift (even if it is not too heavy!) can be absorbed by any one of spinal segments until we straighten up. In my father’s case, stooping forward and twisting was even worse as it led to a disc protrusion. He felt an excruciating electric shock of pain as the nerve root impingement made itself known—not to mention the muscle spasms throughout the lumbar region—followed by severe muscle weakness… all from one seemingly innocent lifting episode! Over 40 years later, he can still recall that first episode of searing pain. Like my father, many of us have experienced that acute, sudden pain, or know someone who has, and I am sure we can all agree with the old adage “prevention is better than a cure!”

Proper Lifting Techniques Everyone Should Know

If you know there’s no way to avoid lifting a few boxes this summer, let’s make a pact to lift them the RIGHT way!

Four simple (and healthy!) steps to lifting boxes the safe way:

Step One: Stand close to the box with your feet spread shoulder width apart (Psst! One foot should be slightly in front of the other for balance).

Step Two: Squat down slowly, bending at the knees (not your waist). Tuck your chin while keeping your back as vertical as possible.

Step Three: Get a firm grasp of the box before beginning to lift.

Step Four: Slowly begin straightening your legs, lifting slowly. Never twist your body during this step.

The best part? These steps can be applied to any heavy lifting or moving you may have to do—not just lifting boxes. By keeping these four steps in mind each time you may need to help out with some chores around the house, you will have a much greater chance of protecting your back.

How Massage Therapy Complements Back Pain

We are all human. We may not always think through the four steps mentioned above before we lift something. That’s why I strongly recommend speaking with your Board Certified Massage Therapist (BCTMB) about any back pain before you begin your regular session. Massage therapy will provide numerous benefits to relieve your back pain, but it also is a great preventative tool to avoid it in the first place!

In my father’s case, massage therapy and regular bodywork in his home town of London has been the saving grace in managing his three prolapsed lumbar discs—saving him from the need of cortisone, discectomy, laminectomy, sleeping on a door (advice from our family doctor 1974!), and other pharmaceutical agents. If you suffer from back pain, you, too, can benefit from regular massage therapy sessions.

Some of the benefits of regular massage therapy for back pain are:

  • Improving local circulation,
  • Invigorating the local musculature around the lumbar spine and pelvis,
  • Creating good tone in both stabilizing and supporting muscles of the lower back,
  • Stretching essential and powerful muscle groups (i.e. quadriceps and hamstrings),
  • Helping to prevent back pain recurrences,
  • Bring postural and body awareness,
  • Enabling activities of daily life,
  • Supporting a healthy lifestyle,
  • And much more!

Though an anecdotal example, my father (at age 82!) lives pain free and continues with regular visits to his bodyworker to help relieve back pain. Your Board Certified Massage Therapist (BCTMB) can help prevent back pain for you, too—it is not a cure, but may very well enable you to live a happier and more active lifestyle as you seek to combat the Daily Grind.

Above all, it’s most important to have an open and honest conversation with your certified massage therapist to ensure you are addressing all back pain related issues before your regular sessions begin. Your certified massage therapist can provide you a range of tips for improving posture, proper lifting techniques, and more to enable your back pain remain a thing of the past.

Share with us! What summer projects do you have in mind that will utilize the four healthy lifting tips?

Massage therapists! What do you recommend to clients who may have some heavy lifting planned for the summer months?


This blog was written by:

Board Chair
Leena S. Guptha


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