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Guide for Choosing Lifting Equipment

Physical Therapy in Thousand Oaks for Choosing Lifting Equipment

Back Brace

Many jobs that require repetitive lifting make it mandatory to use a back brace to support the spine. These types of braces are sometimes called industrial back braces. If you have had a recent injury or you are prone to a back injury, you may also be wise to don a lumbar brace even for everyday lifting activities.  A back brace, however, is not necessary for everyone.  Your Physical Therapist at Bartley Physical Therapy can advise you whether using a back brace is appropriate for you or not.  

The purpose of wearing a back brace is to assist in supporting your back.  If you have had an injury it can assist in minimizing your overall pain or allow you to move or work longer before discomfort begins. Wearing a brace in these types of situations can often be the difference between making it through your workday or not!  It is commonly thought that wearing a brace will stop your muscles from working at all and will cause them to weaken.  This is untrue! Even if you wear a back brace the muscles of your spine will still be required to work therefore they will not weaken.  Rather than letting the muscles of the back completely relax the brace will assist to support your muscles so that the they can work within a painfree range of motion or so that they can work for a longer period of time without discomfort.  Continuing to exercise your muscles by doing the rehabilitation exercises your Physical Therapist at Bartley Physical Therapy prescribes will also assist in keeping the muscles toned, active, and working properly to support your spine.  With appropriate treatment and adherence to a prescribed exercise regime, your body can learn to “be the brace” again.

Back braces that you may see available for purchase are either made of a rigid plastic or a flexible elastic material.  The rigid braces are used to maintain or correct spinal positions and would not be appropriate for use while lifting. The elastic flexible braces are designed to be used for everyday use and/or for when lifting.  These braces help support the back by holding the abdominal contents inwards and assisting to compress the area around the spine. Wearing the brace also has the advantage of providing a physical reminder to the wearer about the importance of protecting the spine while lifting.  Many industrial braces have straps that cross at the back and go over the shoulders in order to maintain the brace position. General elastic braces that are not designed for industrial purposes do not have straps that cross over the shoulders, but are rather used to protect a vulnerable back such as one that has had a previous injury or is at-risk for injury. A good elastic brace should have an adjustable strap in the front that velcros together in order to tighten the brace around your trunk, and additional straps that tighten over the main strap in order to form fit the brace for you and make the brace feel snug.

When donning a back brace for lifting, be sure to position the brace such that it covers your low back area but also slightly covers over your hips; this will ensure the brace supports the low back area and does not ride up towards the middle of the spine. Trying the brace on before purchasing is necessary in order to ensure the size and fit is correct and comfortable. A knowledgeable store attendant can be very useful in ensuring you purchase the correct brace for your body type and size. Your Physical Therapist at Bartley Physical Therapy can also assist you to ensure you are wearing the brace properly and in the correct position.  If you are recovering from an injury and it is painful to wear the brace, then the brace is not appropriate for you at this time and it should be tried again at a later date when your discomfort eases.  Most braces can be worn for extended periods as long as they are comfortable.  Your Physical Therapist can advise you on how long or how often is best for you to wear the back brace in your individual situation.

The most useful ‘brace’ that you can use to support your back during lifting is your own internal brace, called your core muscles;  this brace always fits perfectly
and should be ‘worn’ at all times!  Your core muscles, which are those supporting your trunk and spine, include the deep and superficial muscles in your back and abdominal area.  By gently recruiting these muscles in by pulling your belly button in towards your spine while maintaining a neutral spine curve before and during your lift, you engage the muscles that help to support your spine.  This small exercise can make a big difference to supporting your spine and building endurance in the core muscles.  Your Physical Therapist can assess your ability to recruit these muscle efficiently and can also provide you with advanced core stability exercises that are appropriate for you to even further improve your strength and endurance.  


Wearing gloves when lifting is only necessary if you are doing repetitive lifting (such as for work or to complete a day of moving), there is a risk of chemical or hazardous material exposure, or if you have a finger or hand injury that you are trying to protect.

Many stores specialize in selling personal protective equipment, including gloves. Gloves are manufactured from a variety of materials including leather, cotton and synthetic materials.  Advancements in the manufacturing of better and more comfortable and more durable materials is ongoing therefore a knowledgeable store attendant can greatly assist you in choosing the best gloves for your individual lifting needs while taking into consideration the following tips:

The gloves you choose should fit your hands well; gloves that are too small will not allow you to freely move your hands and fingers, while gloves that are too big will force you to grip your load more forcefully, which leads to stress in the muscles of the hand, elbow and forearm, and can easily lead to an injury of these areas.  Ensure that your glove is flexible enough so you can maintain a good grip on the load you are moving, yet durable enough to withstand repetitive use.  If possible, choose a glove that has grip treads or a reinforcement built into the palm of the glove itself.  This grip assists traction and prevents the load from slipping out of your hand. Many gloves also have grips covering the pad of the index finger and thumb in order to avoid the need to take the gloves on and off when picking smaller items up.

Lastly, choose a glove that overall looks and feels good. The truth is that you are not likely to consistently wear your gloves for lifting if they aren’t comfortable or appealing to you when you put them on.


A trolley is not necessary for all lifts, however it is wise to consider how the use of a trolley in any lifting situation may be of benefit.

The use of a trolley, whether big or small, can greatly decrease the strain that is taken by the body.  There are thousands of varieties of trolleys made to fit the needs of most any kind of lifting, from carrying shopping bags, to moving bricks or pianos. Choose a trolley that moves easily on its wheels, but yet also remains steady and solid when it is in the loading position.  Loading the trolley up should be easier than lifting and carrying each load independently!  Depending on the type of trolley you use, you may be able to stack a large
load onto it or into it, but be sure that the load is stacked safely to avoid it falling off and injuring you.  Once the trolley is loaded, the weight of the load still needs to remain within a safe limit such that you can safely move it using the trolley.

In cases where you need to lift and transport multiple items, particularly if they are heavy or awkward, a trolley is highly recommended. A trolley is also recommended in cases where you need to lift many items as the trolley can decrease both the number of bends and lifts your body needs to undergo.  Depending on the type of trolley you are using, it can also decrease the height to which you need to bend in order to lift your load.

If you are using a typical moving trolley with two wheels, be careful when tipping the trolley to engage the wheels.  Stand facing the load with your feet wide apart and tighten your stomach muscles in preparation to take the weight of the loaded trolley.  If the trolley appears too heavy once you have engaged the wheels, stop and unload some of the weight before proceeding.  Push the loaded trolley rather than pulling it. This allows you to remain square on to the weight rather than dragging it behind to one side of your body.  If you are negotiating a small slope, then it is best to reverse your position and go down backwards with the trolley in front of you (you descend before the trolley) in order to control both the load and the weight.

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