How can I prevent health problems from lifting and carrying heavy loads

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How to lift safely:

It is easier to prevent back problems than to cure them. Whenever possible, let your legs do the work—not your back.

  • Use leg muscles—not back muscles—when lifting. When you lift objects or children from the ground, kneel or squat to pick them up rather than bending over.
  • Keep your back, shoulders, and neck as straight as possible.
  • Do not lift or carry heavy objects during pregnancy or right after childbirth.
  • Get someone to help you lift heavy objects. It may seem quicker to lift something by yourself. But later on you may lose time because of a back injury.

How to carry safely:

  • Carry objects close to your body.
  • If possible, carry objects on your back rather than on the side of your body. This way the muscles on one side of your back do not need to do all the work. Carrying loads on your side also makes your spine twist too much. This can cause back strain.
  • If you must carry objects on one side, try to switch sides often. This way the muscles on both sides of your back are working the same amount, and your spine twists both ways. Or split the load and carry it on both sides.
  • Try to avoid using head straps. They can strain your neck muscles.

How to bend forward safely:

  • Bending forward for long periods of time—which women often do when washing, farming, or with other chores—can cause back strain. If you must work this way, try to stretch often. If you start to feel pain in your back, it can help to try some different positions, like squatting or kneeling. Change positions often.
  • Do not bend over at the waist to reach things on the ground. Instead, squat down by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

  • Burns, A. A., Niemann, S., Lovich, R., Maxwell, J., & Shapiro, K. (2014). Where women have no doctor: A health guide for women. Hesperian Foundation.
  • Audiopedia ID: en030109