Protect your spine when lifting or bending

unloading dishwasher
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Strategies for safe movement are essential for people with osteoporosis - and recommended for all adults.

For a person with osteoporosis even daily tasks can potentially lead to back injury. Whether lifting a grocery bag, or bending to load a dishwasher, anyone with fragile bones needs to be cautious by using safe ‘techniques’ to reduce the risk of spinal fractures. 

In fact, it’s good practice for ALL adults to learn how to lift and bend safely. With age our muscles become less flexible, making us more prone to back injury. Here are a few essential tips to help you protect your spine from  painful and debilitating injuries:

Lifting and lowering objects safely

  • Keep your feet apart to give your body a wide base of support
  • Stand close: hold the object as close to your body as you can
  • Bend at your knees, not at your waist or with a rounded back
  • Lead with the hips, rather than the shoulders. This will help you avoid twisting your back. The shoulders should be kept in line with the hips. To change direction, don’t twist your back, but move the hips first so the shoulders move in unison
  • Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift or lower any object
  • Lift slowly, using your muscles in your hips and knees
  • As you stand up with the object, do not bend forward
  • To set the object down, don’t bend from the waist, instead squat - using the muscles in your knees and hips
  • Know yourself: be aware of how much you can safely lift, and if an object seems too heavy or difficult to manage, don't hesitate to get help

More tips for back safety

  • Avoid rapid twisting of the spine
  • Practice  good posture, with back straight and not rounded
  • When exercising, avoid abdominal crunches and curl ups or exerecises that involve twisting movements

An excellent new resource by IOF member society American Bone Health is the 24-page brochure Do it Right and Prevent Fractures: The bone healthy way of life and exercise. It illustrates how simple daily activities such as getting groceries out of the car, making a bed, or unloading a dishwasher can be done safely to reduce the risk of back injury. It's available to download free of charge.

You should be conscious of how you bend and lift by keeping the tips and techniques above in mind. With time and practice, safe movement will become ‘instinctive’, serving you well as you age.

LYB logoThis article appeared in our monthly Love Your Bones newsletter sent to IOF members.

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