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Spring Cleaning the Right Way: Tips From a Chiropractor

By Dr. Molly Casey

Spring Cleaning the Right Way: Tips From a Chiropractor

Everything in life has a season, even cleaning. It’s incredibly common that after a winter season of hibernation, or being more closed in, that the house -- and life in general -- is ready for a bit of an overhaul, cleaning out and cleaning up.

This time of year there are plenty of patient stories in the chiropractic office of spring cleaning gone right and spring cleaning gone wrong. Educating patients on the best ways to maneuver during spring cleaning utilizing proper body mechanics and chiropractic care offers the best chance of optimal function for many years to come; it can help to avoid injuries and pain during the process of getting your spring cleaning done.

Why Should You Care About Spring Cleaning?

What’s the point of spending the time reading this article or planning out your weekend of house cleaning this spring? Because function, longevity and feeling good are important matters in your well-being.

The spine is your body’s frame. That frame protects and houses the nervous system, which is your master communication system. The healthier the spine is, the better opportunity for those systems to function optimally, and the better chance you have for optimal health. The healthier the spine, the likelier it is that you experience better overall health and longevity.

When you put time and energy into how you physically move and the tasks you ask your body to perform, it is far more likely you will avoid injury and decrease bouts of pain that may affect your daily life, functioning, and schedule. A little bit of extra time prior to doing a deep clean can save a lot of hassle and pain.

Biggest Mistakes During Spring Cleaning

It’s Monday morning and the patient walks into the chiropractic office. She’s moving very slowly and having a much more difficult time lying down on the chiropractic table than usual. When asked what she did over the weekend, the topic of spring cleaning comes up. Whether it’s a her or a him, whether they are old, young or middle age, there are often themes of common mistakes presented.

Too much at once - This refers to time, repetitive motion, and weight. As patients start describing their weekend cleaning adventures, they talk of long, extended periods of cleaning, sometimes up to six or eight hours or more. They will tell a story of one particular part of the kitchen or garage that kept them crouched down in a specific, torqued position doing the same motions for an extended period. Or the patient will share they were moving large pieces of furniture by themselves with too few people that far exceeded their capabilities -- just too much weight. All of these are examples of too much at once.

Poor body mechanics - Certain parts of the spine and body are meant to move in certain ways. For instance, your knees are meant to do more flexion and extension versus rotating in circles from one side to the next. Although spinal joint segments have multiple planes of motion, there are certain types of motions and ways of loading the joint that are safer than others. Spring cleaning is often a time when people put little thought and attention into how they are moving, lifting, and operating. This can lead to far greater risk of injury. Injuries may lead to pain, disruption in daily life, and long-term dysfunction that ultimately wears at our overall quality and health and life.

Continuing on - I often hear patients say, “I knew I shouldn’t have been doing that. I knew I should have stopped after cleaning the living room and left the rest until later. I knew when I heard this noise in my body that I should have stopped then but I didn’t.” It is important to listen to one’s body and the thoughts that come into the mind that are nudging you to slow down, take a break, or stop the cleaning altogether.

How to Avoid Injury During Spring Cleaning

You can complete your spring cleaning while staying healthy and pain-free at the same time. It is absolutely possible, but it takes some preparation. When you review the tips for success most of it is common sense. It’s certainly not rocket science, but it does require follow-through.

It goes back to that old adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” So plan out your cleaning project.

Components of the project - List out the different areas/categories in the overall project. Perhaps it is the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and garage that need a full clean.

Time - Approximate the time needed for cleaning up each area. Perhaps the garage will take three hours but your living room 90 minutes. Add up your total time for the entire project to be completed.

Intensity - Take the categories above and rate them in terms of intensity, scaled 1-10, with 1 being easy and not very taxing on your body and 10 being very taxing because of the repetitive motions or the need for others to help -- such as moving heavy objects.

Balanced approach - Map out your approach to getting the work done by balancing time and intensity. The more intense the category, designate smaller chunks of time to do work. The less intense the work, the longer time chunks you can healthily perform. This portion of planning requires that you be honest about your abilities to function prior to starting. If you can barely stand for two hours without pain now, how do you think it will go standing for three hours while cleaning? It likely will not go well.

Pay attention - Prior to and during the cleaning, be aware of your body, how it feels, and what you are asking it to do. Also take stock in how well you are performing the tasks. Don’t get up and immediately start cleaning without first stretching for five minutes; be sure to warm up your body. Square off to face objects directly, bend your knees to grab the object and hold it close to the body if it’s heavy; pretend you’re pushing the floor away from you when lift objects.

Take breaks and support your body afterward - Taking breaks during the cleaning projects is a great idea. A break can be a two-minute pause if you find yourself having done the same motion for long periods of time. Stand up and move around, shake it, out then return to your task. Maybe it is a 20-minute lunch break. Whatever a rest looks like, don’t forget to pause and break. Afterward use ice or hot baths to support your muscles and joints.

See your chiropractor - You can see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic before and after your spring cleaning effort. A visit beforehand to assure your spine is moving as well as possible, and for a chat with your chiropractor about tips on your approach, can be a beneficial part of your preparation. An adjustment afterward will address any extra stress on the joints over the duration of the project, helping your body and joints along the way.

Spring cleaning can be done without harm to your spine, your body, and your daily life functioning. It takes preparation in both time and energy. The time and energy spent beforehand can save you lots of pain and suffering on the back side of the project, which can make life a whole lot happier.

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