Squat and Lift
Try this….hold a stick against your back with one hand keeping the stick against your head and the other hand keeping the stick against your buttocks (Figure 1). Now try to bend forward, keeping the stick touching the back of your head and buttocks. Were you able to do it? Or does it look like Figure 2 where the stick doesn’t stay against your buttocks?
If you look like the person in Figure 2, then chances are you probably tend to bend forward like this when brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing dishes, lifting groceries, lifting laundry, etc Get the picture?
This type of bending uses more of your back than your hips and knees. It puts extra pressure on your spine and can lead to back problems. Often it is not one single event that causes back problems but the cumulative effects of improper body mechanics. Ever hear the expression, “Lift with your legs”? Most people understand the concept but how to actually do this does not usually get explained.
If you look at Figure 3, the person keeps the stick on their head and buttocks. The only body parts bending are the hips, knees and ankles. The back stays straight and with the core activated, the back is protected. Note that the hips and knees are bending equally to each other – not the knees greater than hips. Another way to bend down or forward is like the golfers do – bending solely at the hip while still maintaining a straight back. Again, keep in mind your core!
-SQUATS – Builds strength and balance in your lower body and core musculature.Stand with feet hip to shoulder distance apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Begin to lower your butt down to feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your chest and back engaged and strong, knees pointing straight and not collapsing inward. Maintaining this posture, raise back up to starting position.
– SINGLE-LEG BALANCE – Standing on your right leg, fold your arms across your chest (or if necessary, hold onto a stationary object) and engage your core. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then switch. To challenge yourself, add a small single-leg squat motion on the leg you are standing on. Repeat 10 times and switch legs.
Whether you are brushing your teeth, washing your face, lifting up groceries, laundry or just picking up that tissue off the floor, using proper body mechanics is essential to prevent injury.
Happy bending forward and squatting! Take care of your body and be healthy!
(click here if you’re curious about the Bend and Snap)
Stephanie S. Saito, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at HealthCare Partners Physical Therapy in Torrance with a specialty in Orthopedics. A part-time instructor at Mount Saint Mary’s College in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from USC.