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My Back Hurts When I Lift Things: How to Get Rid of Back Pain (According to a Physical Therapist)

Updated: Apr 10

Back pain may be the most common pain that people complain of and that limits their ability to complete daily activities. One of the first things that seems to go is the inability to lift objects, especially anything heavy or from the floor.

I have worked with several people that have given up lifting objects all together to avoid pain. Their significant other or a family member have become their permanent “lifter” of all things.

Luckily for you, it doesn’t have to be this way! There are ways that you can get back to lifting objects, reaching the floor, and lifting something heavy again. So don’t let your back diagnosis keep you from being able to return to normal function and lift objects around your home again.

For more information on what your back diagnosis means, check out: Defining the Spine: What Does My Diagnosis Mean?

First Things First.

If you have back pain that is limiting your activity you should be working with a physical therapist before your pain begins to affect other areas of your body and life. Working together, we can focus on the cause of your pain so that you can learn ways to prevent its return and progress ahead of it so you can get back to your normal function.

Your physical therapist will do an evaluation at the start of your care to determine the possible cause/s of your pain and set a plan in place to address it/them. She will use different techniques such as manual therapy, postural, core, and muscle control, and/or education to address the deficits that may be leading to your pain in conjunction with you completing exercises, stretches, and making postural changes.

Everything that you do with your physical therapist should be working towards your goals and aiming to educate you on how to prevent the return of your pain.

Next Comes Strengthening!

What muscles are typically weak when we have difficulty lifting things?

Generally your core, glutes, and/or legs. Rarely do we not have the strength in our arms to lift something from the ground.

So what do we do to strengthen these muscles? Here are a few exercises to work on your strength:

  • Bridges

  • Ball press downs

  • Side steps

  • Sit to stand, without using your arms

  • Dead bugs

  • Bird dogs

With each exercise you do to work on your strength, remember to focus on contracting those specific muscles and don’t use momentum or let your posture suffer through the movement. If you're interested in learning about the "Top 5 Exercises for a Bulletproof Back," click here for my free e-book guide!

Incorporation of Your New-Found Strength!

As I always stress, incorporating this new strength into your activity is the most important part to being able to lift objects from the floor without pain. If you strengthen your glutes, core, and legs but don’t know how to turn these muscles on when you pick up an object, you may still experience some pain.

The other part to this is maintaining the posture and techniques you learn through physical therapy to decrease the strain you place on your back in a squatted position and bending forward.

Once you are able to use the correct posture and muscles during the lifting position, you will be able to pick up objects from the ground without pain in your back. Using this technique each time you bend down to pick something up or retrieve a heavy object will help prevent the return of pain or further injury in your future.

In the blog I wrote on finding your core, you can learn how to engage your core muscles and what it means to use them. Click here to read more!

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