Is there a correct posture to lift?

Low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability worldwide (Vos et al 2016,Buchbinder. et al 2013) and lifting is a common trigger for LBP.

There is an idea that lifting with a rounded back is harmful (Caneiro et al 2017). However there is very little data to support this hypothesis.

Nic Saraceni et al (2021) reviewed all the available literature that investigated lumbar spine posture during lifting with and without LBP. Their study concluded that "based on the current evidence, advising people to avoid lumbar flexion when lifting could not be justified by the current evidence". They suggested that there is a lack of high quality evidence regarding the relationship between lumbar spine posture during lifting and LBP. However they did not advocate that lifting with a round back was any safer than lifting with a straight back.

They suggested that how you position your back when you lift is not as important as how often you lift, your level of fitness and conditioning and how fatigued you feel (Coenen et al 2014, Coenen et al 2013). So in order to discuss back health it should follow the general advice for joint health where the focus would be targeted to emphasising the importance of maintaining spine mobility, muscle strength, physical fitness, general health and healthy body weight and lifting fitness in order to minimise the risk of LBP (Caneiro et al 2020a, Caneiro et al 2020b).

When managing LBP, physiotherapists should be able to provide evidence based advice, where you gradually increase the strength and lifting capacity of patients for the requirements their job requires and encourage confidence in people with LBP to move and load their backs in their accustomed manner.

Dr Jan Naughton

Titled Sports Physiotherapist

About the author:

Dr Jan Naughton received her PhD at Sydney University where she was lecturing in Sports Medicine and undergraduate physiotherapy. She specialises in shoulder injuries and has a sports physiotherapy practice in Wahroonga on Sydney's upper north shore working with two other specialist colleagues.

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