Making Exercise Healthy Medicine
and Carrying Loads
Without Back or Neck Pain
© Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Director Neck and Back Pain Sports Medicine
Headmaster AFEM - Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine
for fixing bad exercises and changing to functional exercise Health
& FItness THIRD ed, and
to solve chronic lower back pain from overarching, The Ab Revolution FOURTH edition - No More Crunches No More Back Pain,
are used by military and top spine centers around the world. Named "The St. Jude of the Joints" by Harvard School of Medicine clinicians
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You are on Dr. Bookspan's free, no-ad site web site. It is here just for you to have a healthier saner life. There are hundreds of free articles on this web site for you to have a better life. This page covers being able to lift and carry whatever you want using healthy body mechanics. Then you can get stronger and more capable during your real life activities, instead of being told not to lift daily loads in real life (babies, backpacks, handbags, book bags...) and having to go to PT to lift weights to get stronger - that's backwards and silly.
Often, articles of "do's and don'ts for your back" list rules that restrict movement are no fun, and are often not even true. Instead, this article will show you the concept of how back pain occurs so that you can move in healthier ways that are fun, active, and let you do more than before.
Healthy lifting and carrying is more than "Lift with your knees" although few people do even that much to prevent back pain. There are often more achy backs at the end of the day from poor carrying technique than from bending wrong to pick things up in the first place. This goes for anything you lift and carry: groceries, packages, suitcases, a backpack, laundry baskets, the baby, a pet, lifting things up to shelves, lifting weights in the gym, and even carrying around the weight of your own body.
Not all exercise is medicine. Not all medicine is healthy. I change that. No health insurance needed. Much of costs, time, and worry currently spent in medical treatments are unnecessary, and often unhealthful It's not health care if it's not healthy. I have developed information through years of research in the lab, and thousands of students and patients. Limited Classes and appointments to train directly with me, and workshop certification by me through AFEM for top students. More about me in Adventures. Now, go read and stop pain and be able to life more.
To make this an easy summary for you, much is shortened.
Use this article to get better now, and get the books to fill in the rest.
Info, Drawings of the figure Backman!™ and Photos in this article copyright © Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the books.
Now, go fix your lifting technique and get stronger while you fix your pain
Mystery Back Pain #1 Leaning Back When Carrying Things in Front
A common bad habit is to lean back or arch your back backward when carrying something in front of you, like a package, a chair, or a baby. Leaning back does make things easier to carry because you don't have to support the load with your muscles (you don't have to do work). Instead, you shift the weight of the load plus all the weight of your upper body onto your low back. You lose free exercise and pressure and strain your low back soft tissue and the low back joints called facets. To prevent this back pain and get abdominal muscle exercise at the same time, try this:
- Stand up and pick up and hold any load in front of you, like a backpack, a baby, or a chair.
- If you notice yourself leaning your upper body backward, or increasing the inward curve of the lower spine, straighten your body to an upright position: Pull forward enough to take the excessive arch out of your lower back. Don't curl so much forward that you round your shoulders or crane your neck. Simply straighten your body against the pull of the load. This is how to stand up using your abdominal muscles to maintain good posture against any anterior load. Your bags, groceries, and babies could be a built-in abdominal muscle exercise.
When carrying something in front of you, check if you increase the inward curve (arch) of your lower back by leaning backward (left), or lean plus push your hip forward (right). Increasing the inward curve (increased lumbar sway) shifts your upper body weight down onto your lower spine, resulting achy lower back pain after prolonged standing, carrying, and walking.
The left-most drawing shows neutral spine. In neutral spine, the pelvis does not tilt (middle drawing)- it is vertical from the top of the leg bone to the side of the hip. The upper body does not tilt or lean backwards (right drawing).
MIddle and right drawings show different ways of slouching producing swayback and an achy lower back and posterior hip.
You may have heard the false statement that being pregnant makes your posture change and arch, and that it is the pregnancy that makes your back hurt. This is not true; the pain is preventable by not leaning back to counter the weight in front. Use your abdominal muscles to fix your posture so you can stand without arching backward. Of all times to prevent arching, pregnancy it is.
A surprising way to help your back is to strengthen your arms. When your arms are weak, its more tempting to rest a carried weight on your hip and lean back, letting your low back take the brunt. But even with strong arms don't lean back. It's not strengthening, but using your knowledge to position your muscles that will fix your back pain.
Mystery Back Pain #2 Leaning Back When Lifting Overhead
When reaching your arms overhead to do anything from stretch, to reach a shelf, to taking a picture, to taking off your shirt, check to see if you arch your back or lean back. This shifts weight to your low back. Instead, tuck your hips under you and don't lean back, to reduce the arch of your low back. Try to reach up again holding straight position. You should feel that there is no more pressure on the lower back. You may pleasantly feel your muscles working more in your abs and shoulders.
Check if you increase the inward arch of your lower back or lean back when reaching upward.
Don't lean back. Don't let your lower back increase in arch or your hip push forward. Use neutral, pictured earlier.
Mystery Back Pain #3 Leaning Back When Carrying Things On Your Back
Heavy bags and backpacks don't make you arch your back, lean, or have bad posture. You do. Straighten your pelvis to neutral spine using your abdominal muscles to counter the pull, and prevent lower spine overarch. Notice if you lean back. Straighten your upper body by beginning to curl your torso, as if "doing a crunch." Don't learn forward, round your shoulders, or crane your neck. Straighten your body against the pull of the load to take the large arch out of your low back and regain healthy posture. You will feel your abs working to do this. Your bags could be a built-in abdominal muscle exercise.
Mystery Back Pain #4 Leaning Forward When Carrying Posterior Loads
With posterior loads like knapsacks, its common to lean or round forward to counter the weight, or to rest the weight on your curved spine instead of holding the weight using muscular effort. Leaning forward is easier because you don't have to support the load with your muscles. But by leaning forward you shift the weight of the load onto your spine bones. That means your spine does the work instead of your muscles. You lose free exercise, promote a round-shouldered posture, and strain your back.
With extremely heavy weights, for example when rescuing a heavy person or getting a truck out of a ditch you will need to lean. Whether you need to lean to unhealthful angles depends how well you prepared ahead of time. Strengthen your muscles and learn good positioning skills so you can minimize damage to your back during the few situations where the weight is too heavy. But for most carrying, prevent rounding forward, and get good exercise at the same time. Stand straight without leaning backward or forward. You will feel your muscles working.
Good Carrying Habits for All the Time
Is it natural to slouch? As natural as wetting your pants, but you learn to "hold it" even when you don't feel like it. Good body positioning is the same - learn to hold it.
Use your muscles to hold your body in healthy positions when standing and carrying gear and you'll get great exercise without going to a gym, and save your back when carrying all the things, big and small, you need to carry.
Fun tote bag reminds good carrying - Click here to get one, plus other fun Backsavers and UNcommon Sense Gifts
How Long Does It Take To Stop Lower Back Pain With Good Carrying?
If your pain comes from overly arching or rounding forward when carrying loads in front or back, you should feel the pain and pressure stop the moment you straighten position when carrying. If you're not feeling better right away, check what you are doing compared to what is presented above. Are you leaning your upper body back? Did you push your hips forward instead of tucking (tilting) under to straighten? DId you round forward? Are you tightening or clenching any muscles?
Make sure there is not something else contributing to your pain. It is is almost always quick and easy to start getting your life back and start feeling better right now. Don't wait.
To Help You Remember:
- If you are not sure how to tilt your hip into neutral position, use the summary Abdominal muscle article.
- Watch other peoples posture, gait, and movement habits when lifting and carrying.
- Notice injurious postures, especially those featured in fitness and health magazines
- Notice your own habits.
- Send me photos showing the principles in action. Prizes for best candid.
- Send me your success stories about using these principles.
Now that you can lift without pain, use what you saved to give to the poor, and take a vacation, and tell this scientist to keep getting you the good stuff:
Look what you've saved on unnecessary overpriced ergonomic devices, medical treatments, and worry :-)
You can give to the poor, put a nice amount in the donation box - secure and safe through PayPal - and still have enough left for a vacation. Thank you!
If you want to argue with me about good lifting, put a nice figure in the donation box and it will send me your e-mail to learn from.
What To Do NEXT:
Use the Amazon book links in boxes below. If you're not ready to donate (above) for fixing your pain, use the Amazon book links below. Get anything you wanted anyway, from song downloads, health and medical equipment, home stuff, movies, whatever. Amazon will send me a small percentage - and never your name. Thank you for helping this site by shopping for things you want anyway - with privacy assured. Use the links for next time too.
Send Your Photos and Success Stories showing the principles in action to me on TWITTER! Prizes for the best ones. Tweet nice notes and success stories how you are better, which is my big reward. Follow for health updates, quick & short.
The Fitness Fixer - Change exercise to healthier ways with my free on-line health compendium
More Free Summaries on This Web Site:
- How (Exactly) Do Abs Fix Back Lower Pain - You may be surprised. Learn why you should work your abs without crunches - The Ab Revolution
- How to fix your own back pain
- How to fix bad discs, pinched nerve, and sciatica
- Fix your own neck pain, upper back pain, herniated and degenerating cervical (neck) discs, shoulder pain, and forward head
- Long Sitting - Stop back pain on planes, trains, from computers, and TV
- Fix Your Own Knee Pain.Stop knee pain pain without drugs or surgery
- Avoid ineffective habits that work against your health - "Why Fitness Isn't Working"
- How to tell how to move in healthier ways - Bad Exercises and Ones To Do Instead
- Stop hurting yourself stretching - Stretches That Harm Stretches That Help
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Inspiring Patient Stories - real people tell, in their own words, how they used the information in these articles and classes to stop pain and fix their injuries.
See Dr. Bookspan's Research on This Web Site.
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