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5 Tips to Avoid Back Pain While Doing Back to School House Cleaning

August 31, 2016 in Article, Seasonal, Spinal Deformity, Tips, Wellness/Prevention,
Posted by Michael W. Hasz
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It's interesting how the ole "back to school" mentality isn't just limited to school-age children and adolescents. "Back to school mode" is actually a mindset of recalibrating, and adopted by many. Whether it be in your nutrition and exercise regimen, decluttering and cleaning of the house after being at the beach all summer, or even just getting back to more structured daily schedules. As you begin to pack up the kids school supplies, and switch your focus from flip flops and bathing suits to backpacks and homework, you may also be thinking of getting your living space back in order. 

I was recently inspired by a popular book written by Marie Kondo called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. With fall just around the corner, I’ve been motivated to do a little house cleaning myself (I really liked the tips she outlined in her book) and was reminded how important it is to protect your spine and avoid back or neck pain. These five friendly reminders help me to stay out of pain and get the job done without injury.

It feels great to have a clean and organized home. It also feels good to only have the things that you really need -- decluttering! As a previous professor of mine once said, "Everything you own owns a bit of you, so only keep what you really want and need. It frees you up to do many other things."

Five Tips to Avoid Back Pain while House Cleaning

1.  Do not try and do everything in one day. {Rome wasn't built in a day}
As Ms. Kondo advises, do not try to do a major cleaning all in one day.  Do not expect to get everything done in one day, particularly if you have a big project.  It is much better to divide cleaning and tidying into smaller projects.  Pick a theme and stick with it.  For example, take out all of your jackets, or shoes, and put them in one big pile in one room at a time. Go through each item one by one to determine what you really need and want.  Have you used this item in the past several months or year? By simplifying cleaning into separate segments, you have a much greater chance of having a sense of accomplishment after each step.  The tidying and cleaning will also likely last much longer, and your back will thank you from stopping to rest rather than running around trying to accomplish everything at one time. 

2.  Use proper lifting techniques.
Rule of thumb: Use your legs to lift, not your back. Avoid twisting when you are lifting. Actually turn your body toward what you are going to lift, squat down, and lift with your legs. When you are storing something heavy, do not store it on the floor where you have to pick it up all of the time. Store heavy objects at waist level so you do not bend and put additional stress on your back.  If you need to place an object toward your side, do not twist over it, turn your body and then lift or set down the object.

3. Avoid over reaching and bending whenever possible.
Try to do most of your activities either seated or standing upright.  The more forward you bend or more toward the side you bend, the more stress you place on your back, including the muscles, ligaments, and even discs and joints.  When there is more force on your back there is a higher chance of injury. This occurs when you are straining and bending to clean.

4.  Plan in advance and keep cleaning items nearby.
Prepare in advance each item you need. Make sure you have all the right tools within arm’s reach so you do not have to bend for them or run around to find them.

5.  Take caution when cleaning high or hard to reach surfaces.
When you need to climb up to clean, do not stand on the top of a ladder. Do not stand on a wobbly chair. Make sure you have a stable surface to climb on to reduce the risk of falling and hurting yourself. Make sure your step stool or ladder is on an even surface and it will not slide out from underneath of you.

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