Gravity can be a cruel mistress. Picking things up from the ground is often a source and/or contributor to low back pain. There are 4 things you need to know about your back when lifting.
Keep your trunk straight. This one is the most obvious, but you need to do what your mom always told you and lift with your legs, not your back. The most important thing is that you keep your back in a neutral position and hold it there while you lift. Since you won’t be using your back to bend over, you’ll have to use your legs instead. You can squat down, fold over at the hips, or do a golfer’s lift (stand on one leg while the other is lifting behind you to counterbalance). Even better, use a variety of all 3!
Don’t twist. When you’re lifting, you should always avoid twisting your spine while it’s loaded. A much safer method is to first lift the object, then turn using your feet or hips. While this seems cumbersome, places like UPS require their employees to learn this strategy before they release them to lift anything because its so important for avoiding injury.
Keep the load close to your body. The further away you hold something, the more strength required to hold it up. So when you’re picking something up, and especially if you’re carrying it, try to keep it as close as you comfortably can to your hips or trunk.
Brace your core. Pretend like you’re wearing a back belt (or just put your hands on your waist) and push your core outward into it. Or you can pretend like someone is about to punch you in the stomach. This is bracing your core. After you can do that, you should practice holding that contraction lightly while breathing and moving at the same time. Ultimately, you’ll want to lightly brace your core while lifting, carrying, and breathing.
If you follow these 4 principles, you will protect your back as much as your reasonably can. These can help prevent back injury but they are also very important principles for anyone who already has back pain. They can reduce your chance of overloading your back and reinjuring it.