Oh my aching back….

Heavy lifting is a reality for many healthcare professionals. Whether lifting heavy equipment, maneuvering carts, or lifting patients, knowing how to lift properly can save your back.

The classic advice is to bend with your knees, not your back. Do NOT push or pull. Get as close to the load as possible. Try to keep your elbows and arms close to your body. Keep your back straight during the lift by tightening the stomach muscles, bending at the knees, keeping the load close and centered in front of you, and looking up and ahead. Get a good handhold and do not twist while lifting. Do not jerk; use a smooth motion while lifting. If the load is too heavy to allow this, find someone to help you with the lift.

HCPs can take advantage of mechanical lifts, pivot disks, and slide boards to transfer patients from place to place. Be sure to inform your patients before you begin to lift them, even if just to fluff up their pillows. Then there will be no reaction to them and they can become “limp” to make your lifting easier.

Before You Lift

Know what you are lifting and how you will lift it
Know or test the objects weight
Determine whether or not it’s safe to lift on your own
Make sure your pathway is clear of any tripping hazards or debris
Check for any wet or slick surfaces
Use ergonomic equipment if needed, making sure you are training first on the equipment
Ask for help if needed
Use a wide stance for balance and your legs to lift


Hold your breath
Bend or twist at the waist
Use a partial grip (1-2 fingers)
Forget to wear proper PPE

Basic Diagonal Lifting Technique

  • Get as close to the object as possible
  • Use a wide stance with one foot forward and to the side 
of the object for good balance
  • Keep your back straight, push your buttocks out, and 
use your legs and hips to lower yourself down to the 
  • Slide the object as close to you as possible
  • Put the hand (same side of your body as the forward 
foot) on the side of the object furthest from you
  • Use this basic lifting technique for small objects when 
you can straddle the load and use a wide stance
  • Put the other hand on the side of the object closest to 
you. Your hands should be on opposite corners
  • Grasp the object firmly with both hands
  • Prepare for the lift, tighten your core muscles, look 
forward and upward, keep a straight and strong back
  • Lift slowly and follow your head and shoulders. Hold the 
load close to your body. Lift by extending your legs with your back straight, and breathe out as you lift


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