Has this ever happened to you? You’re going about your daily activities, maybe something as simple as taking the trash out, loading the dishwasher, or even changing the bed when all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your back and you can hardly move. Does this ring a bell?
Just a few weeks ago this happened to one of our patients Kim, 58. She planned to play tennis with friends after some house cleaning. Kim threw her back out with one simple bend and twist. The pain wasn’t so bad at first.
A few hours later her back began to stiffen up and she canceled tennis. The next day the stiffness progressed to pain and it was worse! Kim’s back started to ache when she sat down, she struggled to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in, and she couldn’t even bring herself to stand without being in agony.
How was she going to handle the kid’s school and sports activities and her tennis if she couldn’t even stand up straight? Now you might be thinking this won’t happen to you, not with something as basic as everyday chores.
However, it is very common and affects 80% of us at some point in our life. The thing is, many people will ‘put up’ with a bad back for days, weeks, or months, hoping the pain will go away on its own eventually. Rest and playing the waiting game doesn’t really help most people, and they suffer for too long.
Try these two quick tips for everyday housework jobs to help make agonizing back pain a thing of the past.
We like to blame the chores but it is how you do them that is important.
First, avoid bending the spine in awkward positions when using the vacuum cleaner or a mop.
Bending at the waist over and over again is one of the most common mistakes people make. To help fix this the key is to keep your hips and shoulders moving towards the work while moving the feet and keep the spine upright and strong.
Second, avoid leaning over when doing the washing or picking up that lost sock from the bedroom floor.
Bending at the waist repeatedly will strain your back muscles. To get around this I tell my patients to do something I like to call the ‘golfer’s reach’, it has this name because it’s similar to how golfers pick up a golf ball.
Keep your spine straight when you reach for items, don’t bend repeatedly. Reach with your hand while lifting your opposite leg up in the air. If you need extra support, place your opposite hand on a nearby surface.
The deeper you reach with your hand, the higher your opposite leg should go so that you can keep your balance while simultaneously reducing the amount of strain on your back muscles.