Have you ever heard the old saying “lift with your legs, it’s better for your back”? Well you aren’t the only one.
This old saying has devastated more spines than I care to count, not necessarily because of the saying itself, but more for the interpretation of what it means.
What the saying should be is “lift with your hip joints, it’s better for your back.” What most people imagine when they hear “lift with your legs” is a squatting type motion that allows the knees to bend to pick something up off the floor (as in the first image). By utilizing leg musculature, one many think that they are saving themselves from a back issue. Unfortunately, this is flawed thinking, as when someone bends from their knees, they tend to also bend from their spine. This is especially true for a vast majority of the population that lacks mobility in their hip joints (as in the next image).
The hip joints themselves are ball and socket joints that are designed to be extremely mobile and transfer a significant amount of load. When bad biomechanics fall into place, bad hip and ankle mobility set in (typically from the plague of desk jobs in our country), and one bends from the spine thinking that they are helping themselves by “lifting with their legs” a significant amount of load gets transferred into a flexed (bent forward) spine, pressurizing the front portion of the disc. Doing this enough times can cause your spinal structure to shift causing pinching in the front portion of the discs therefore waring out the fibrocartilage. This is when it only takes a sneeze or a cough to cause a posterolateral (back and side portion) disc bulge – which happens to be the weakest portion of a disc next to a set of nerve roots. HELLO SCIATICA.
The solution? Learn to do a proper deadlift through hip hinging by only allowing the knees to slightly bend, shifting your glutes back, and bending from the hips all while maintaining a neutral spine. Transferring the load through the mobile ball and socket joints will save your spine and allow you pick up items by loading the correct joints in your body. By doing so you optimize the tension mechanics in your hamstring musculature and then you are truly “lifting with your legs”. This may be extremely challenging, if not impossible, if your spine has adapted and shifted into a flexed position, this alone necessitates a rehabilitative process to correct the structure of the spine before reprogramming a hip hinge movement pattern. Reprogramming these patterns aren’t always easy and typically should be done in a doctor supervised office setting. If you are interested in discussing this type of issue, give our Shelby Township office a call at (586) 991-1505.