Tips for Tasks: Protecting Your Back While Doing Chores

By Martha Michael

Chiropractic for Mowing the Lawn

The ordinary cold may be “common,” but back pain is right behind it in rate of occurrence. People seek medical help for lower back pain in high numbers, and more than half of those individuals say it impedes their normal everyday functions.

Back pain is often caused by repeating bad habits in our daily routines, says an article in Prevention. And they can cause health problems ranging from strain to disc conditions, sometimes as debilitating as causing you to be flat on your back or provoking the need for support in walking.

"Back pain can be chronic unless you adjust your environment and lifestyle," says Jeffrey Katz, MD, co-director of Boston's Brigham and Women's Spine Center.

It’s the everyday activities that, when repeated, can affect your ability to function, which means they’re worth assessing and making some changes, if necessary.

Bending Over the Sink

Tonight while preparing for bed, consider your body position when you lean over the sink. It’s a good idea to check your stance when brushing teeth, washing your face, and in the morning when you shave or apply makeup.

An article in Woman’s Day says that to prevent back injury, we may need to alter the way we lean forward. Rather than hunching, which applies pressure on your spine, the goal is to keep your back flat and “hinge from the hips” when you tilt toward the sink. And if you bend your knees it’s one way to place less stress on your back.

If you’ve spent the last 30 years wearing down your spinal column because of the way you stand, it’s never too late to change your ways. Start with a visit to a chiropractor to assess your spinal health. Not only will you then have a baseline to address future injuries, your chiropractor can help you manage the damage and minimize the pain.

Mowing the Lawn

If a gardener isn’t in your budget, you probably “mow and blow” like the best of them. However, if it’s an infrequent practice, your body may be taking a licking. At the very least, you can get an achy back, especially if you don’t stretch before heading for the lawn. And like your stance at the sink, your posture while mowing the lawn may have everything to do with the aches and pains you acquire.

Stand up straighter when mowing, and use shorter pushes. Ideally, you’ll want to invest in a self-propelled machine. If the bar on your lawnmower is the right length, you should be able to bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and straighten your wrists.

Do you look like a stick figure in a semi-flexed position when pushing the mower? If so, you could be compressing the discs in your back, which may lead to spinal nerve damage.

Seek treatment if you’re experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Pain in your legs and buttocks
  • Numbness, typically on one side
  • Muscle weakness
  • Discomfort at night

Spinal manipulation from a chiropractor can decrease symptoms. Your practitioner will also be able to assess whether it’s necessary to reposition the contortions in your spinal column resulting from the toll your body takes from chores.

Cleaning House

Some of the worst damage from simple house cleaning comes from moving heavy objects. Push furniture, rather than pull it, the Prevention article advises. Also, watch your stance. Place your feet directly below your shoulders and bend the knees, especially while moving heavy objects or lifting.

Refrain from twisting when possible, which we tend to do to reach corners behind toilets or the backs of built-in cupboards or shelving.

Give yourself enough room to work. You minimize the prospect of falling over furniture and stepping on sharp objects if you clear your path before vacuuming, for instance.

If you love heavy wood furniture, you might need a lumbar support belt to help protect your back from injury. And treating your chores like a workout is another good idea. Ask your chiropractor for some good exercises to prepare your muscles for the strain involved, whether it’s laundry, lawn or lugging heavy objects.

An article in Woman’s Day suggests you picture yourself wearing the support of a corset. It protects your core, including your abdomen and backside, while you remain aware of the importance of holding up your torso. There’s a suggested exercise also, in which you reach each arm straight up -- one at a time -- for about 10 seconds, as though someone is tying your corset.

Living with injuries can cost you, at least in terms of quality of life. It may be cheaper to hire a cleaning agency or team of landscapers. Of course, a handmaid or manservant to help you with your routine at the sink may be harder to come by.

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