Grocery Shopping and Proper Body Mechanics

Ever feel hurried when grocery shopping? Often, to save time, we cut corners leaving ourselves more prone to injuries. We wanted to take a moment to define good posture, body mechanics and suggest a few ways you can incorporate these principles when grocery shopping.

Good posture is defined as maintaining the normal spinal curves. The spine has five groups of bones: 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (mid back), 5 lumbar (low back), 5 sacral/4 coccygeal (sacrum). When positioned properly, the neck and low back have inward curves, and the mid back and sacrum have outward curves. Proper body mechanics can be defined as posture in motion. Back pain is seldom caused by a single injury or incident. Poor body mechanics and faulty postures (i.e. postures outside of the normal spinal curves) over time contribute significantly to back pain.

Proper body mechanics allows the spine to maintain its natural curves and minimizes the stress on the joints and muscles. The use of the “ready position” will allow you to maintain good posture while moving. The “ready position” is when you knees are bent, your feet are shoulder width apart, and your weight is on your heels. You spine remains straight while you bend at your hips. It will feel like you are lowering yourself to sit down in a chair. All the normal curves of your spine will be maintained and the large muscles in your legs will do most of the work. The “ready position” should be used with all activities of daily living, including grocery shopping/bending/carry and lifting.

Moving into the “ready position”

Poor Posture Normal Curves

When carrying your groceries keep the load even on each side of your body and only take in a few bags at a time. It is important to keep your spine upright and not lean to one side to avoid injury to your back.

Make sure you pick a good shopping cart. If you get a cart and notice it is pulling more to one side or isn’t rolling easily then stop and grab a different cart. Once you start loading the cart the small pull will intensify and cause increased stress your low back.When pushing the cart try to keep your body forward and straight and avoid rotating your body while shopping. It is important to not push a load with your spine in a twisted position because this can cause injury to your back.

When getting items from the shelves it is important to use proper lifting mechanics.

BODY MECHANICS – WAIST HEIGHT LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on to and set it down. Be sure to NOT twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.

BODY MECHANICS – KNEE HEIGHT LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on to and set it down bending at the knees slightly. Do Not bend at the spine. Also, be sure NOT to twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.

BODY MECHANICS – OVER HEAD LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on and raise it up over head with a “one-hand-under and one-hand-over” technique as shown. Set it down and DO NOT extend at the spine. Also, be sure NOT to twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.

Loading and unloading your car is a critical time to think about your body position. It is easy to forget about body mechanics as you reach in the back seat or into the trunk of your car. You want to bend at your knees and hips keeping the natural curves of your back and lift with your legs. Face the area your lifting from and move your feet instead of twisting your back to get to the area where you are putting your groceries. As you set the groceries in your car make sure you are facing the area as well.


So, the next time you are grocery shopping stop and check yourself before bending and lifting. Go through the steps for the “ready position” and incorporate them in your shopping routine. The couple of seconds you take to do this could save you from a back injury that could last for months/years.

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