Do you even lift?
Whether you’re a powerlifter, manual labourer or a new mum, I’m betting you probably need to lift things every day.
“Keep your back straight”, “use your legs”, “bend your knees” are phrases we hear all the time as conventional wisdom (unfortunately, from many physios too). Conventional wisdom is not always the ‘wisest’ of advice it seems, especially when it comes to backs.
There is this huge misconception in the general population that backs are structures that need to be wrapped in cotton wool – protected to the point of not using them for what they were specifically designed to do i.e. bend and lift. Backs truly are a feat of incredible evolutionary engineering. Have a think of what we ask of our backs on a daily basis. Twisting, bending, lifting or even all three combined (imagine adding an unruly 2 year old to the mix!!), it’s no wonder that sometimes they can get a bit sensitive and painful.
Yet the advice above stays as prevalent as ever in manual handling training, trickling into public perception….Youtube every heavy deadlift video from present day to the advent of humankind and one common thing prevails…. a flexed lower back!!!!!……..”BUT, BUT people say you shouldn’t bend your back when lifting”. It’s interesting that the way these giants lift, bears a striking resemblance to how we are not supposed to lift, yet the sport is extremely safe – in actual fact approx 1-4 injuries /1000 hours, 3x safer than soccer and AFL. Riddle me that!!……If backs were fragile things in need of protection I doubt they could cope with lifting up to 500kg with a flexed spine – just a tad bit more than the average toddler 😉
What it comes down to then is not so much the HOW we actually lift, but how familiarised (or adapted) the back is to doing the task. Which brings us to one of my favourite words – ‘Loading’. We are adaptable creatures capable of doing amazing things if loaded in a paced way; adding little bits at a time. Just like you wouldn’t decide to climb Everest without preparing for the high altitude, you can’t expect to lift things (awkward, heavy or otherwise) without adequate preparation to adapt to the load.
As someone that likes to lift heavy things in the gym for the fun of it, I can attest to this awesome phenomenon of adaptation. We lift heavier and heavier things, in multiple ranges of spinal flexion and wallah, the back can cope with more load……..MEANING that it can handle all those awkward and/or heavy toddlers in everyday life without issue. A simple rule to follow for my own training and with every client: The body will allow you to cope with most of the stresses you place on it, provided you give it the time to adapt. Key word being TIME. Now, I’m not advocating for Granny to go out and start strongman training tomorrow – I AM advocating for people to go out and use their backs for what they were designed for…..bending baby!!
Take care of the muscles, ligaments and joints and they will take care of you. That is where your physio comes in! Optimal strategies to strengthen and load your back, individually tailored to your environment to ensure that risks to the back are minimised. At Rozelle Physio, This is what we excel in, so let us help you with that.
– Unwrap that cotton wool
– Bend the back
– Graded load increase over TIME