Moving and lifting objects

Spinal pain can limit your activities of everyday life and decrease your quality of life dramatically if not properly managed. Pain is a warning system and is the body’s way of informing you that something is wrong.

Maintaining the correct body posture during everyday life activities can significantly assist in reducing back pain and progressive spinal damage.

The following advice could be helpful in managing your back pain during everyday activities.

Moving objects by pushing and pulling

It is important to know that pushing puts less strain on the back than pulling.

• Keep your back straight and tighten your stomach muscles.
• Make sure you are close to the object by leaning in slightly towards the object.
• Keep your feet shoulder width apart and one foot slightly more forward than the other.
• Bend your knees and use the strength of your leg muscles and the weight of your body to move the object.
• Rather than pushing or pulling by facing the heavy object, you can turn around and push the load with your back braced against the support.
• Use the strength of your leg and thigh muscles to do the work and do not twist your body.

Lifting heavy items

It is very important never to lift an object with an improper lifting technique, as this could result in serious spinal injury.

The illustration on the opposite page indicates how pressure on the discs (that are located between the vertebrae) increases during an improper lifting technique (drawing on the left). Note how the pressure in the disc is unevenly distributed when the back is bent (flexed). This can result in a tear (rupture) of the disc and the soft centre can squeeze out and press against a spinal nerve, causing leg pain and even leg weakness, and may result in surgery.

• Always keep your back straight and tighten your stomach muscles when lifting an object.
• Make sure you are close to the object and have a firm hold on it.
• Keep your feet shoulder width apart to ensure a firm base of support.
• Bend your knees and use the strength of your leg muscles to lift the object.
• Do not twist your body, but rather give small steps with your feet to move the object.


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Going shopping

It is sensible to go shopping during off-peak hours to reduce the amount of time spent shopping and also to avoid the need to stand for prolonged periods in long queues. When reaching for articles on the shelves, you should bend your knees to reach the shelves that are very low or you should ask for assistance. You should also ask for assistance when reaching for articles above eye-level. Use a trolley that runs smoothly and do not fill it too heavily so that it is difficult to manoeuvre.

• Consider online shopping and delivery services.
• Ask a shop assistant to carry your parcels and load them into your car.
• Go shopping more often and buy smaller quantities at any one time.
• When lifting groceries in and out of the car, keep items close to the body, bend your knees and keep your back straight.


This website is a patient resource compiled from information from leading spinal surgeons practicing in South Africa and complements the My Spine – Lumbar and My Spine – Cervical information booklets that you can obtain directly from your spinal specialist. You will find information about spinal conditions and treatment on this website.

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My Spine – Lumbar and My Spine – Cervical information booklets are now directly available from your spinal specialist. All patients that are undergoing spinal surgery in South Africa should have access to these booklets. Please ask your specialist at your pre-operative visit about these booklets.