Lifting 10 pounds doesn't sound like much, but if you do it wrong, you could put more than 1,100 pounds of pressure on your lower back - that's when it's called overexertion.

Lifting heavy loads or lifting incorrectly can cause strains or sprains to the muscles, tendons or ligaments. How you sit and how you move can make a difference. Even using the wrong tool or poorly-maintained tools can hurt by forcing you to use awkward motions or more force than necessary. Major risk factors for overexertions include:

  • Exerting force to lift, push or pull
  • Awkward postures
  • Rapid movements
  • Temperature extremes
Click on the boxes for helpful tips.


Overexertions are typically the second leading cause of injuries in adults.

80 percent of adults are impacted by lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Leading causes of back injuries include:

  • Attempting to move an object that's too heavy;
  • Excessive, prolonged or repetitive twisting, reaching or bending.
Click on the boxes for helpful tips.


Determine what might make the job easier.

Get some help

Pushing, pulling, or lifting requires a lot of exertion. Grab a friend or use mechanical assistance to move heavy loads.

Push it

Push instead of pull when possible.

Wheel it

Friction makes a hard job harder. Try to use a dolly or hand cart.

The right tool for the job

Using the right (and properly maintained) tool can make the job easier and prevent overexertion.

Maintain good posture

Whether you're lifting boxes in the attic or typing at work, good posture can reduce stress on your body.

  • Don't over-reach - Position yourself squarely in front of what you're moving or working on.
  • Minimize the need for bending, reaching, or twisting.
  • Never lift with your arms extended.
  • Keep your back straight, knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart and lift with your legs, not your back.

Take a break

Your muscles need time to recover after moving heavy loads, or even doing repetitive motions. Take frequent short breaks and do some stretching.

Don't go to extremes

Working in the heat can lead to heat stress, fatigue, or cardiovascular strain. Working in the cold can result in reduced blood flow and muscle tension, which makes muscles more susceptible to strains. Dress appropriately and take frequent breaks someplace where the temperature is closer to normal.