Top Ten Tips to Avoid Injury while Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is a great way to recharge and get your house back in order, however organizing closets and cleaning out the basement can create achy, stiff joints, and tight muscles. Here are 10 tips to help you avoid injury while cleaning this spring:

  1. PACE YOURSELF: It can be a long, and physically demanding task to clean out the house, so space it out and do not try to do it all in one day. A common reason that patients come in to see us at HARTZ is because they over-do it with housework. For example going up and down the stairs all day, cleaning for 6+ hours straight, reaching overhead wiping shelves for an extended period, etc.
  2. HAVE A GAME PLAN: For example, if you are going to clean out the basement, avoid unnecessary trips up and down the steps by being prepared. Have the trash bags and cleaning supplies handy, make piles of what to keep and to donate, and then start making the trek back upstairs. Work smarter not harder, your body will thank you!
  3. PROPER FOOTWEAR: While cleaning you will want to avoid wearing sandals, flip flops or slippers because of the poor traction each has. You want to wear athletic shoes or shoes that have a rubbery sole to avoid slips and falls!
  4. PROPER BODY MECHANICS: If you are planning to move heavy objects, be sure to use proper lifting mechanics: bend at your knees, feet shoulder width apart, item close to body and keep a flat strong back (squatting motion). Avoid repetitive movements, use cushions to kneel on, keep your shoulders relaxed when working overhead and avoid tensing your shoulders up to your ears.
  5. START SLOW AND WARM-UP: This may sound a little silly to warm-up before cleaning, but you will be bending and testing your muscles trying to reach every nook and cranny in your home. Doing some light stretching will help you avoid any muscle strains that may come with cleaning.
  6. UTILIZE PROPER TOOLS: Instead of getting on your hands and knees to clean your kitchen floor, use a mop with a long handle. Vacuum cleaners can be heavy and can cause people to have back pain from pushing and pulling them. If you have a history of back pain, try using a cordless vacuum cleaner as they are usually much lighter and easier to move around. When cleaning at a high height, whether it be a ceiling fan, or a high window, be sure to use a proper step ladder to reach those spots.
  7. TAKE BREAKS AND STAY HYDRATED: Cleaning is not a race! If you are someone who cleans every day, you can overuse certain muscles which in turn can cause injury to that muscle. To avoid these types of injuries, it is important to take short frequent breaks. While taking these breaks be sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated while cleaning. Keeping your muscles well hydrated is very important to avoiding injuries.
  8. BREAK UP A BIG JOB INTO SMALLER ONES: If you are attempting a big cleaning job, especially alone, it is important to tackle that job with a plan. Break the one big job down into more manageable smaller jobs and complete those one at a time.
  9. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: If you are having pain while cleaning, then stop and take a break. I know we are inclined to want to finish the job, but fighting through the pain could turn a small problem into a larger one. Cleaning can be a strenuous activity on your body and your body will tell you exactly how it feels. If it is telling you to stop, listen!
  10. PAMPER YOURSELF: After you are done cleaning for the day, take time to assess how you are feeling and pamper those muscles that are a bit sore: utilize a heating pad or ice pack to a trouble area and perform some gentle stretches. Here are recommendations to stretch three areas that commonly take a beating from cleaning:
    1. LOW BACK: may be hurting especially with heavy lifting or even just sitting on the floor for extended periods of time. Lay on your bed and perform some easy trunk rotations, pull your knee in towards your chest, and then trial some hamstring stretches.
    2. NECK/SHOULDERS: may be sore especially if you are hunched over sorting through old files or paperwork. Gentle upper trap and pec stretches will help to relieve neck tension and improve a rounded shoulder posture.
    3. FOREARMS/WRISTS: always work hard when cleaning. To help, perform wrist stretches by holding arm straight out and pulling fingers up (flexor stretch) and then down (extensor stretch). Hold 30 seconds each.

By following these ten simple tips you will help prevent any injuries that may come with spring cleaning. If you ever find yourself in pain that just won’t go away, consider having a physical therapist look at the problem area and give you some tips for reducing pain!  Call us at HARTZ PT anytime!  Happy Cleaning!

~ Alicia Leeking, PTA and Melissa Potts, PTA Student

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