How to Lift Using Proper Body Mechanics

By: Jamey Fox, PT

Bio: Jamey Fox is a member of the therapy team at the Little Light House of Tulsa, a Christian developmental center for children with special needs.  She graduated in 1990 with a B.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of Oklahoma. She completed certification in Neurodevelopmental Treatment  in 1993. She has been a PT for over 30 years with 29 of those years working as a pediatric physical therapist in special education in a Tulsa area public school district and currently at the Little Light House in Tulsa.  Areas of focus have been in seating and positioning in the classroom and improving students’ abilities to access educational environments and school materials.

Proper biomechanics and lifting techniques are very important in keeping our backs healthy.  We all lift and move heavy objects daily, like lifting a basket of laundry, carrying a sack of groceries, or picking up a small child and putting them in their car seat.  We get so busy in our routines that we often forget to take care of our bodies, which can result in injuries.  It is much easier to learn ways to protect our backs than to try to repair and rehabilitate an injury.

There are Golden Rules to using proper body mechanics to reduce the risk of injury.  

  • You must first scan your environment to make sure there are no obstacles in your path or any slippery materials on the floor. Plan your route to lifting and moving the object before you pick up the load. 
  • Use a wide base of support and ENGAGE YOUR CORE to help protect your spine.  LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS, keeping the load as close to you as possible.  
  • Keep your spine in good alignment, and try not to rotate your back while lifting.  
  • Use small steps to turn your body toward another direction.  
  • Slowly lower the load using your legs to squat and do not bend forward at the hips as this will put excessive strain on your spinal muscles.  
  • Try to slide or pull a heavy load when possible to reduce your energy exertion.  
  • Plan ahead and take your time when moving a heavy load.  
  • Ask for help when needed!

Proper body mechanics and lifting techniques should be used when lifting and moving children with special needs in order to reduce the risk of injury to both you and the child. 

  • Move the child or equipment close to the surface to which you are transferring.  LOCK BRAKES ON EQUIPMENT!  

Other important things to consider when moving a differently-abled child include knowing any pertinent information about a medical diagnosis (brittle bone disease, recent surgery, etc.), muscle tone and spasticity, behaviors related to fear of being moved or discomfort (biting, grabbing, pinching, etc.). You should communicate with the child to let them know that you are about to move them or pick them up.  “I am going to put my hand behind your back and under your bottom and move you to the toilet.  Here we go!”  Make a plan and take your time before lifting and moving a child. Ask for help if you are unsure about moving a child and err on the side of caution.  Remember to always use proper body mechanics and lifting techniques to have a happy and healthy back!

You can download our training presentation on lifting and body mechanics all Little Light House staff members receive during our back to school orientation by clicking the download button below.

Lifting and Body Mechanics

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