Maine chiropractor offers advice for how to lift a big turkey without throwing your back out

Laura Grady of Two Coves Farm in Harpswell organizes fresh Thanksgiving turkeys as customers trickled in to buy the pasture-raised birds in this BDN file photo. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

South Portland chiropractor Andrew deBethune is urging Thanksgiving diners to be careful hoisting the turkey this year. In a post on deBethune’s blog, he notes that today’s turkeys are heavier than in decades past.

“Next week a large portion of the population will attempt to place (15 to 30 pounds) of fowl, breading and assorted vegetables outside of their base of support and into an oven,” deBethune wrote, in part. “This action will place large compressive loads on the lumbar spine and it’s supporting structures. With birds weighing 1.2 pounds more on average, clinicians all over the country worry this may be the straw that finally breaks grandma’s back.”

deBethune, who wrote that he grew up on an organic farm in central Maine and graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in sports medicine, urged folks to prepare for lifting heavy birds using the following steps:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Place hands on thighs
  3. Slide hands down thighs while maintaining a neutral spine.
  4. Gluteus maximus should translate posteriorly.

That last step roughly means you should stick your butt out and keep your weight centered, rather than leaning your upper body forward at a potentially awkward angle.

Check out deBethune’s original post for a step-by-step diagram.

And he writes that if you can’t position yourself that way without it hurting, you probably shouldn’t be trying to pick up a 30-pound turkey.

Here’s a helpful video on the same subject with similar suggestions about proper turkey lifting form: