BBPT Health Tip: How Not to Mess Up Your Back this Holiday Season

Fiona McMahon DPT

low angle photography of atlas statue
Photo by Ana Paula Nardini on

Chances are doing some traveling over the coming months. The holidays are a time when we haul luggage through airports, Christmas trees and boxes of decorations through your house, or load massive turkeys into the oven. With all this lifting on the docket, I have a pretty good hunch you don’t want to start the new year with a heating pad and lying down in bed, so I am going to share with you, some of my favorite lifting tips.

Get close to what you are lifting:

black jurassic figurine
Photo by on

I mean really close. Maybe hug it if you can. The reason why we should get close to what we are lifting calls back to high school physics. The force on the spine equals the weight of the object being lifted by the distance it is away from the spine. Therefore, the farther an object is away from you, the harder it is on the spine to lift. My co-workers use the term “T-Rex arms” to describe how close they want their patients to be holding what they are lifting.



Don’t lift with your back. You have all heard it a million times, but if you bend forward with your back to pick up what you are lifting, you will end up placing a tremendous strain on the muscles and bones of your spine. Just don’t do it. Instead, bend with your knees to get to what you want to lift, and push through your legs to stand back up.

Don’t be a Hero

Ask for help if something seems too heavy to lift. In the long run, everyone will be better off. Knowing when to ask for help is sometimes the most challenging part of safe lifting practices.  If you feel you are asking for more help than you would like or you have back pain that is not resolving, come see us at Beyond Basics to help you get back into lifting shape.  The sooner, the better.  You don’t want it to become a chronic problem.  

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT practices at our Midtown location


Rock Your Body Mechanics

By Riva Preil

Tis the season to be reviewing proper body mechanics, especially considering the amount of heavy lifting and transporting (ex. suitcases, gifts, decorations). Protecting your back is one of the best presents you can give yourself this holiday season, and the benefits will far outweigh that of any iPad. That being said, please pay close to attention to the following tips you can easily incorporate into your routine to promote optimal health and safety:

  1. SQUAT TO LIFT HEAVY OBJECTS- while lifting an object, step close to the object, spread your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend from the hips, knees, and ankles. Head and shoulders should remain upright, and tighten your abdominal muscles (your core) throughout the lift. Avoid bending from the back, and instead use your large, strong lower extremity muscles.
  2. USE GOLFER’S LIFT TECHNIQUE TO LIFT LIGHT OBJECTS- Choose one leg, and shift your body weight onto that leg. Put your opposite arm on a supportive surface (ex. countertop, rail, table etc.) and bend forward.  Allow the supporting knee to bend slightly and allow the unweighted leg to lift off the ground in line with your torso.
  3. PUSH RATHER THAN PULL- When moving heavy objects (ex. table, bed), pushing the item from behind while standing erect allows you to use your body weight during the move, which decreases the burden from your back.
  4. AVOID TWISTING- Trunk rotation while carrying or moving a heavy object puts severe stress on the lumbar vertebrae and the intervertebral discs. It is better to pivot and move from your feet while engaging in loaded twisting movements (ex. carrying luggage, vacuuming, etc.). As with all back protection strategies, remain as close to the item as possible throughout activity.
  5. SINK SAFETY- Most sinks are situated lower than our backs would like. Pay attention next time your brush your teeth- do you find yourself bending forward? Does this make your back feel strained? If so, try this simple trick- place one foot atop a stool while brushing your teeth or washing your face, and see how much better your back feels afterwards.
  6. LOGROLL YOUR WAY OUT OF BED- The worst thing is starting your day off on a bad foot…or a bad back for that matter! Getting out of bed in the morning could be a much more pleasant experience by avoiding awkward twists and bends as you arise. Instead, try using the logroll technique- roll onto your side, scoot close to the edge of the bed, and bend your hips and knees. Then, push up through your upper body as you drop your legs off the bed. This maneuver allows you to move your back as one unit and decreases pressure on the spine.

Good luck with these techniques! I hope they help you feel great during 2013 and beyond. Happy New Year!