Staying Pain-Free During College Move-In

Authored by: Dr. Thomas Nguyen

It’s Back to School Time and there are a ton of articles out there about what to pack and how to support your college students as you settle them in for a new school year. So I want to switch it up and instead of focusing on students, this one is for all the adults out there who are moving grown kids into college or new apartments or houses. Congratulations on launching the young people in your life — now let’s make sure you are protecting your back as you move them into the next place they’ll call home.

More than 15 million students are enrolled in college and that means a lot of move-ins for those who love them. If you’re among the group that’s lugging clothes, furniture, supplies and more into dorms and school housing all over this country, you know — it’s a tough job. Moving is back breaking work and many families find themselves doing it over and over again this time of year — as kids head back to college, additional schooling or jobs. I personally have done 12 move-ins with my three grown girls — and I’m sure there are more still ahead of me. I’m happy to say my back has survived and I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that can help make it a pain free experience.

Tip #1 – Recognize the size and scope of the job and prepare accordingly

If you’re moving a student into college, you’re likely doing it in August so you know it’s going to be warm. If you’re like me and those moves often happen in southern states, it’s going to be even hotter. Lots of times there aren’t elevators. There’s a lot of stuff to move with repeated trips and sometimes your vehicle is parked far away. This is is big, hard job. So…

  • Move in the morning if you can when temperatures are a bit cooler
  • Make sure to take lots of water with you to stay hydrated. There aren’t always convenient places to buy it nearby.
  • Stretch! Most people don’t stop to think about how physical the day is going to be so take a few minutes before you start and throughout the day to stretch your legs, achilles, upper back and more. Your body will thank you.

Tip #2 – College move-ins are not a solo sport

There have been times I’m moving my girls in ahead of schedule for sports or activities and those moves are always the hardest. The best and easiest moves have been when they have friends around to help make trips to the car or several families arrive at once and we can work together on the big heavy items.

If you don’t have people to help you, always get a dollie if it’s offered when you rent a U-Haul or other vehicle. A lot of schools have bins on wheels you can use. There’s nothing to be gained by pretending you don’t need that help. Take advantage of it whenever you can.

Tip #3 – Find creative solutions to minimize the toll on your body

A great tip I learned from one of my daughters is to keep whatever clothes you can on hangers and cover them with a trashbag. It’s so much easier and lighter to carry clothes that way then putting them in a box that gets really heavy. It’s also super quick to hang them up and really speeds up the unpacking process.

When you have a choice of boxes — always go for small ones. I don’t see any reason to ever use large or extra large boxes. Fewer boxes aren’t saving you from pain or injury — they’re likely intensifying it. It’s better to make more trips with smaller, lighter boxes. The only time we use medium sized boxes is for really light items like pillows and bedding.

Create systems for the stairs. This is where things get especially tough so have one person at the top and one at the bottom so you don’t have to do all the stairs each time. Take advantage of landings if you can. If you do have to carry yourself, try to shift the weight of things so you’re not always relying on one side of your body.

Don’t forget the emotional impact

There are lots of emotions on this day — sometimes everyone’s excited, sometimes they’re sad. Sometimes they want to celebrate with a meal when you’re done. Other times it’s a quick hug and you’re on the way. You just got to go with the flow on this one. Once you’re back at your hotel or home — don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Stretch a little more, take a hot shower and don’t be surprised if you have some sore muscles. You might need to take it easy the next day too.

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