Avoiding Back Injury

Proper Lifting Technique

proper lifting techniqueIt’s no big deal, right? Just a box of paperback novels.

“I’ve got this,” you tell yourself as you bend, lift– and feel an ominous pop in your back. At this point, it’s too late for proper lifting techniques– now it’s time to think about visiting the doctor.

“A lot of the acute lower back pain we see in the office is caused by unnecessary injuries to the discs, muscles or ligaments in the back,” says Dr. K. Samer Shamieh, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at DISC of Louisiana.

On the plus side, this pain is avoidable if you use proper lifting technique. Read on for Dr. Shamieh’s tips on how to avoid a herniated disc or lower back strain when you are lifting– and solutions for when something goes wrong.


Know Your Limits

Your brain is stronger than your back. Before you lift a heavy object, think about it. If you’re not sure you can lift an object safely, don’t try. Instead, ask for help or make a few trips with lighter weight.

Think Through Your Lift

Decide where you’re going to place the object and how you’ll get it there.

Create a Wide Base

Start your lift with a karate stance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. One foot should be slightly in front of the other.

Squat Down

With your torso straight, squat down to your load by bending at your hips and knees, not your back. Never try lifting anything by bending forward.

Create a Strong Form

Proper lifting form is achieved with your upper back straight and a slight arch in your lower back. Look straight ahead. With your back straight, press your chest out and keep your shoulders back.

Don’t Forget to Breathe

Take a deep breath as you squat down; exhale slowly as you lift.

Take Your Time

Lift slowly by straightening your hips and knees, not your back! Lift with your legs and keep your back straight.

Hug the Weight

Keep the weight you are lifting as close to your body as possible. A perfect lift will happen when the load is right at your belly button. Never lift a bulky or awkward object above shoulder level.

Use Your Feet

To change the position of the load, take small steps. Never twist or turn your torso when you lift. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.

Set Down Slowly

You’ve done everything right to get that box where it belongs. Don’t blow it now! Lower your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.

Proper lifting technique for a healthy spine

What If Something Goes Wrong?

Don’t wait to get a proper diagnosis if you think you have injured your spine. Ignoring the symptoms only prolongs the pain. At DISC of Louisiana, Dr. Shamieh treats a number of injuries. Here are a few common ones.

Herniated Disc

To understand a herniated disc, imagine a jelly donut that’s been squeezed until the sweet filling leaks out. In this metaphor, the donut is your cervical disc, which sits between your vertebrae and provides cushioning and shock absorption. Like a donut, cervical discs have a gooey filling. If trauma causes your cervical disc to rupture, that jelly-like feeling will ooze out, possibly irritating nearby nerves and leading to pain.


Radiculopathy is the medical term for what’s often described as a pinched nerve. It can be caused by a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis or the thinning and drying of cervical discs that naturally occurs with age. Basically, anything that irritates nerve roots in the spine causes radiculopathy, which can result in pain in the neck, arms, legs, shoulders, hands or fingers.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Even severe back and neck pain can improve without surgical intervention. In fact, two out of three patients respond to non-surgical treatments, according to a report published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Here are just a few treatment options.


Non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs for short) are an inexpensive, over-the-counter way to address pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are commonly used to treat inflammation.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Often used in conjunction with NSAIDs, physical therapy may include manual therapy, where the therapist massages muscles in the area, posture education, strengthening and range-of-motion exercises and more.

Medrol Dose Pack

Methylprednisolone is a steroid that can reduce the inflammation that is causing pain. The Medrol dose pack offers the steroid in pill form, with tapered dosing–for example, on day one you might take five pills, on day two you’d take four pills, and so on until the symptoms are under control.

Pain Medication

For people with chronic pain that resists other treatments, prescription opiate medications like hydrocodone, morphine, hydromorphone and oxycodone are options. Because of their potential to cause addiction, the Centers for Disease Control recommends limiting prescription opiate use to three months.

Epidural Steroid Injections

This treatment puts steroids right where it hurts: in the area where spinal nerves are inflamed. The effects are long lasting–up to a few months.


Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive way to address cervical pain. Because pain is really just an electrical signal sent to the brain, interrupting that signal effectively ends the pain. With RFA, a heated needle targets the affected area and interrupts nerve conduction there.

Surgical Treatments

If none of these treatments bring relief, you do have options. Although nobody wants to have surgery, today’s minimally invasive procedures mean shorter hospital stays and recovery times of a few weeks versus a few months. Here are a few procedures Dr. Shamieh offers.


A laminectomy removes part of a vertebra, which creates a larger spinal canal, thus reducing the amount of pressure on a spinal cord or nerve.


In a discectomy, part or all of a damaged cervical disc is removed, so it no longer presses on a nerve.


In an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, the damaged disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft. The bones grow together, forming a new mass called a fusion.


In a Total Disc Replacement (TDR), the damaged disc is removed and replaced with a   high-tech artificial disc that allows for a greater range of motion than a fusion does.

That’s just a little bit of information about common back problems and how to treat them. If you or someone you care about have questions about treating a spine injury or condition, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at one of our seven clinics in the south Louisiana region.

This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this site and links to other sites, DISC of Louisiana provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through links to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use this information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. DISC of Louisiana is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.


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