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What’s the best way to lift heavy objects?

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A new study aims to establish the best way to lift heavy objects to prevent back injury.

Researchers at Curtin University in Australia say that the advice around safely lifting heavy objects has been the same for the last 30 years: keep your back straight, brace the core, avoid twisting, and bend your knees when lifting. But recent research has failed to confirm that this advice actually prevents back pain, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist professor Peter O’Sullivan is the lead supervisor on a new study involving around 60 people whose job includes heavy lifting.

The researchers hope to better understand what advice people should be given prior to lifting heavy objects.

The current advice arose out of a study in the 1980s where researchers concluded that pressure on the back is greater if you bend and move in a certain way.

“That was then extrapolated on — as in, if there’s more pressure, then that must mean that you’re more likely to hurt yourself, so therefore you shouldn’t lift this,” Professor O’Sullivan said.

More recent studies have refuted these findings.

For instance, research led by University of Aberdeen in 2014 found that the shape of our spines alters the way in which we can lift safely.

“We’re clearly not all the same, so should guidelines be telling us to lift in the same way?” said Professor Richard M Aspden from the University of Aberdeen. “Giving more attention to our individual spine shape could allow these guidelines to be better tailored to individuals.”

The benefits of more personalised advice will be explored in greater depth as part of the new research.

Current advice from the NHS on safe lifting can be found here.