One of the most common situations in which we over tax our bodies, especially our backs, is while performing routine household cleaning duties such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, or raking leaves. How you perform these household chores can determine whether your body will ache during the activity or even for days after.
Here are some easy pointers to get your household chores done while saving your body, particularly your back:
1. Keep your back upright rather than bending at your waist. Keep your shoulders rolled backwards every so slightly squeezing your shoulder blades together and downwards as if towards the back pockets of pants.
2. Try to maintain your head directly over your shoulder and avoid tucking your chin to look down. Instead, allow your eyes to gaze downwards.
3. Stagger your stance so that one foot is always in front of the other.
4. Vary your staggered stance so that you spend equal amounts of time between the right and left foot being forward.
5. While in your staggered stance, try to keep your elbows close to the outsides of your ribcages. The farther your arms move away from your body, the more strain on your back.
6. Move your body by moving your feet versus moving your arms. There should be minimal contribution of your arms to achieve any of the tasks mentioned above. The more movement your arms make, the more strain on your back.
7. Focus on only forward and backwards motions, again generating the movement from your pelvis and legs i.e. sweep or vacuum only forward and backwards. Do not do the next tip!
8. Avoid twisting or sideways motions, which cause strain on your back. This is the number one mistake made by patients I’ve worked with over the years, especially while sweeping a floor. The same type of twisting and sideways motions applies to all household duties.
9. Keep your feet moving; do NOT keep your feet planted! Lift your feet even slightly off the ground as you perform your slight lunges forward and back. Just keep your feet moving!
10. Gently tuck your tail in slightly and engage your abdominal muscles.
Performing cleaning utilizing the previous tips will greatly reduce the chance of aggravating your body, particularly your back. Ask for help if needed and be okay with rescheduling or pacing your activities. We often get into trouble when we perform a repetitive activity over a period of time, overtaxing the same muscle groups. Another tip is to cycle through activities spending no more than 15 minutes at any one task at a time. For example, if you have on your “to do list”: raking leaves, pulling weeds, washing dishes, folding clothing, then approach the list as you would circuit training at a gym. Perform each one of those task for max 15 minutes at a time, then move onto the next activity for 15 minutes and so on down your list. Return to the 1st activity after performing 15 minutes each of any one activity. Eventually you will get everything done on the list. Do NOT subject your body to performing one task for extended periods of time, which leads to muscle fatigue, then poor body mechanics, which can cause pain & disability.
If you wish further guidance and education on how to move about your day with less pain and less risk of further aggravation of current aches and pains, please reach out to us! We won’t clean your house for you but can certainly lend a helping hand!