With the school year rapidly approaching, many young people will be starting their first year of college.? They are probably out there right now, buying all kinds of supplies for school and figuring out how to fit it all in the car.? What they, and their parents, are not thinking about are safe body mechanics while moving all their possessions into the dorm.? Here are some tips to help protect your body as you lift so you can start out the school year on the right foot.
- Keep your feet shoulder width apart for balance & stability.
- Bend from your knees and hips, not your back.
- Hold the object close to you, around the area of your navel.
- Minimize any reaching overhead, as this will put undue stress on your neck and shoulders.
- Tighten your stomach muscles when you lift-this puts your stomach muscles in place to help lift, and prevents extra strain on your back.
- Remember to breathe when you lift something. This may sound simple but you?d be surprised at how often people hold their breath when they?re doing something physically strenuous. Holding your breathe increases your blood pressure, so make a point of breathing out as you lift an item up and breathing in as you set it down, and breathing normally as you carry it.
- Keep your back in a neutral position. Use your whole body to turn-don’t just twist.
- Step toward what you are lifting or lowering instead of extending your arms outward – this puts undue stress on your lower back.
- If it looks heavy, it probably IS heavy.? Ask for help: this is a good way to get to know your new roommate!
- If possible, use a dolly or hand-truck. And definitely use an elevator if available.
These tips also apply to packing the car/truck as well as unloading it.? Gentle stretching beforehand can help to loosen up your muscles before you exert yourself, especially if the trip is a long one.? Stay hydrated, take breaks, and watch your back! It?s not worth it to push through and get everything done if it means starting the school year with an injury.
Jon Cinkay is a physical therapist and exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation Department. He is the Body Mechanics Coordinator at HSS, promoting safe body mechanics.