Because diving involves lifting lots of heavy stuff, especially tanks, you risk injuring your back. Back injury is insidious because damage you do when you're 20 may not show up as pain until you're 40. Unfortunately, some of those young divemasters you see tossing tanks around are going to be crippled old men and women one day. But you don't have to join them. Here are nine tips to save your back:
Wear it. To carry your tank to the boat, wear it (and your BC) on your back. Likewise, wear your weight belt when carrying it.
Get help. Many divers don their BC and tank like an overcoat: put one arm in, shrug it onto a shoulder, then put the other arm in. Instead, with the BC held by your buddy (or with the tank standing on a bench), put both arms in and settle the BC on both shoulders before bearing the weight.
Use your legs. Bend from the knees when lifting, not from the waist.
Lift close to your body. Holding weights at arm's length increases their leverage--and stress--on your back.
Pivot from your feet. When passing gear bucket-brigade-style, pivot on the balls of your feet, not your waist.
Exercise. A program of stretching and strengthening exercises can prevent back pain. Never was it more true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Say no. If you have to jerk something to lift it, you shouldn't be lifting it. Get help instead.
Climb slowly. A particular moment of back danger is when you climb the ladder to reboard the boat. The boat is probably moving, you're top-heavy and not too steady. In twisting to avoid falling, you can easily strain your back. Instead, go very slowly. Use your arms to bear your weight as much as possible. Try to find handholds that are above you and spread well apart before you move your feet to the next rung of the ladder.
- Hug it. A tank is almost designed for back injury because it has a "handle" at only one end, prompting you to carry it with one hand, putting unbalanced stress on your back. Aluminum 80s are often too long to carry without hunching that shoulder up, too, which is worse. Instead, carry a tank across your chest in both arms like a bundle of firewood or a baby.