Tips to Protect Your Back During Pandemic Clean-Out

Authored by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini

If you’re going through your basement, attic, extra room, or closet this summer and purging any unused items, you are not alone. Many Americans have been finding new ways to stay entertained during the pandemic, and the quarantine clean is the newest trend. Whether you’re packing up items to donate, collecting trash, or even rearranging furniture to spice things up, make sure you are keeping your back in check. Lifting heavy items can put a strain on your spine and cause serious damage if not done properly. Keep these 6 back tips in mind when you decide to clean up the house this summer. 

6 Tips to Prevent Back Pain During Pandemic Cleaning

  1. Pack Light
    Less is more! The more things you stack into one box, the more difficult it is to lift and carry around the house. Depending on your size and strength, don’t plan to carry more than 25 pounds at a time without help. Your back will thank you for making smaller trips with less items than carrying a few very heavy boxes. Also, do your best to pack things consistently so there are no objects that may require you to lean a certain way or twist your back when going up or down the stairs. 
  2. Plan Ahead
    Lay out a plan for what you want to tackle per day, and don’t try to do too much at once. Plan to give yourself adequate time to take breaks, stretch, and slowly move your things throughout the day, or even the weekend. If you rush, you are more likely to disregard the proper lifting protocols and can injure yourself more easily. Plus, if you hastily move something from the attic to the basement, then change your mind the next day, then you’re making yourself do extra work! Take an inventory of the things you have and want to keep, the things you’d like to donate, and the things you want to revamp or rearrange. Think of it as a fun indoor summer project! 
  3. Stretch
    Let’s face it: not all of us have been as active as we’d like during the coronavirus lock-down. If you go from having a sedentary lifestyle to moving large items all around your home in one day, your body is really going to feel the effects. It may not seem like it, but rearranging and cleaning the house can be extensive work on your body and accesses muscles you may not regularly use. Before you plan to work for the day, stretch your back muscles for at least 5 minutes. Remember to take breaks during and rest, which also gives you more time to plan out the next room! 
  4. Pull Instead of Lift

    For heavy items like a dresser, place a piece of cardboard underneath it and push instead of pulling or lifting it. Sliding across the floor (avoiding scratching it with the cardboard) puts way less pressure on your back than if you were lifting the item and carrying it. Be sure to push using your legs, not your back, and keep your spine in its natural position. Pushing as opposed to pulling is also better for your back, and if you have another person to help, that’s even better. 
  5. Avoid twisting and overexerting

    When carrying heavy items, twisting your spine can cause some painful and dangerous injuries. Instead of twisting, pivot your entire body to one side to avoid straining your back, especially when walking up and down the stairs. Remember to always try to keep your spine upright and in its natural position as much as possible. 
  6. Delegate
    When in doubt, ask for help. If you have friends or family members who can help you lift the heavier items, like a bed, wardrobe, TV, or desk, the lifting will be much easier. Or keep the summer clean-out to a minimum by collecting bags of clothes, books, and any other unused items and send them to your local donation center. Save the heavy lifting and moving for another time when it’s safe to have friends or family members over to help you rearrange. 

A great way to keep summer cleaning fun is to get the whole family involved. Who doesn’t like a summer project, especially when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside? For the dog days of summer where it’s too hot to be outside all day, finding ways to keep your body and mind active indoors is great for your health. If you are concerned about the impact moving could have on your back, consult your doctor before and heed any advice they give you. Even with the proper precautions, your back will most likely be sore the next day after moving things around the house. If you are still experiencing any back pain for more than a couple of days, schedule an appointment with your spine specialist. 

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