How to lift your girlfriend safely

Posted on October 30 2016 04:59

Slipped disc, also called as disc prolapse or herniated intervertebral disc is a common problem. The disc is repeatedly injured by wrong posture and wrong lifting postures. This is especially important in this era of "gymming". Repeated disc injury sets the stage for development of spondylosis.


Last week a thirty five-ish man walked into my consulting room in excruciating pain. He was bent on one side and was stooping forward.
As he walked inside I could make out that he had severe low back pain and possibly sciatica.
Sciatica is fairly well known symptom but at the expense of repetition let me say that it is the pain starting from lower back and travelling down along the back side of the buttock and descending into the back side of the thigh and calf. It may or may not be associated with tingling and numbness in the said distribution.
Now, this man, our friend ... let's call him Anil.....had severe sciatica and he was unable to put even a single foot forward without pain.

" did this happen?"  I had to ask about the mechanism of injury.

"Well.....doc... (some people love to call us 'docs') know...I was lifting a bag...."

"A bag? Really?...." This was his girlfriend...a typical IT professional with the goggles pushed stylishly above her forehead disappearing into her burgandy coloured hair.

"Doc....he was trying to lift ME".....

Honest enough!!

"But why..?" I could have avoided this question.....but couldn't help.

To cut the story short....our friend Anil his rather romantic mood and remembering perhaps the scene from "Gone with the wind" has played Rhett Butler and had indeed lifted up our Scarlet  O'Hara with the intention of taking her to bed. The problem was that both our friends were not anywhere near the size of the erstwhile actors of Gone with the wind.
Compounding problem was that Anil had arched his back forward while lifting 'Scarlet'.
In the middle of the act ( ...of lifting her..that is...) he had severe low back pain and right sided sciatica.
So sudden and severe was the pain that he involuntarily left scarlet who needless to say fell down...luckily on a fairly cushioned carpet.
He was unable to get up for some time due to this pain but eventually managed to crawl up to the bed. A family doctor was called and he had injected him with a painkiller medicine.
An MRI was duly ordered.
Anil's MRI showed a large slipped disc between his L5 and S1 vertebrae.
The pain and disability were so severe that we had to emergently perform microscopic discectomy surgery to relieve the pain.
Now....what had gone wrong? Actually our Scarlet was not very fat though she was a bit on the heavier side (certainly way heavier that Vivian Leigh).
It was clearly the manner in which he performed this act to which he was not accustomed.
It is necessary to learn how to lift weights correctly based on the mechanics of the spine.
Every few days I see an injury sustained at the Gym due to faulty technique of weight lifting.
Our we all made up of multiple vertebrae stacked on one another and there are soft structures called as the discs between every two of them.
They act both as shock absorbers and ball bearings.
If the pressure inside a disc skyrockets during some physical activity, and if it crosses the tolerance level of the protecting mechanisms, the disc can rupture and herniate.
There have been very detailed studies about the pressures generated inside the lumbar disc during various activities.
You may say "This is too technical and why are we wasting our time in some neurosurgical spine related study?"
Well.. you have to know about it because it is relevant to you even at this very moment. The way you are sitting NOW could influence the pressure inside your disc and determine whether it will contribute to early spondylosis or not.
If we take the pressure inside the disc while standing straight to be 1 then the pressure changes are as follows-

Standing straight                -1.0

Sleeping straight (face up) - 0.5

Sitting bending forward     - 1.8

Standing bending forward - 2.0

Lifting 20 kg weight            -4.7
bending the back  
Lifting weight keeping the - 2.0
back straight and slightly
arched backwards keeping
the weight close
to your body.

So, it is clear that the maximum stress is generated when one is lifting weight.
To lift the weight, (which includes your better half)  you should keep the weight near to your body, you should keep the lower back straight or arch it a bit backwards and bend within your  hip joints and by flexing your knees.
If you remember the pressures generated in your lumbar discs while lifting, you could avoid a certain injury.
If you are able to follow this and take your girlfriend (or boyfriend if you are an ambitious girl) up to the bed......well...that's the subject for another article because scientists have also measured the intra discal pressures during various postures described by another good friend of ours- Vatsayana.

Till then,
Jaydev Panchawagh


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