Household Chores for a Healthy Back

by Dr. David Fishkin, DC, MPH

Household chores are murder on your back. Twisting, lifting, reaching, bending, repetitive motion are aggravating to a back. I have clients that come to me with their “back out” from anything from plugging in the iron to brushing their teeth. I know you must do these things, but let me share some healthy back tips for getting through those back breaking chores safely.

At the counter: Washing dishes, chopping vegetables, even brushing your teeth– all hazardous! Scared? It’s just the counter height, it is likely not the perfect fit for your body. It should be belt level. Bend your elbows and shrug, it should reach the bottom. So either re-do your kitchen, buy some platform shoes, OR you can relieve some of that pressure by raising one leg. Not like a dog, but propped up, knee bent, on a stool. Or open a cabinet door and use the ledge to prop your leg.

Vacuuming: The upright vacuum, it’s the enemy to your back. Most people push and pull violently. This rotates your spine with your arm outstretched. This position exposes you lower back to an acute flareup. Instead focus on your arms doing the moving, and your back NOT twisting. Slow down if you have to.

Bathtub: Take off your shoes and climb inside the tub instead of leaning over it. Squat some if you can.

Ceiling work: When painting or cleaning a ceiling fan, you are reaching above your head with your arms outstretched. This arches your back causing increased pressure. Use a tall enough ladder to minimize arm raising and stretching and arching.

Laundry time: Stop carrying the dirty laundry in a basket down a flight of stairs. Many reasons to avoid this: #1 You cannot see your feet and risk falling. Your back will hate you if you do that. #2 Your arms are outstretched increasing your back pressure. #3 You may tend to sway your back, adding undue pressure. Instead, toss them in a bag and let it roll down the stairs. It’s ok to bring the laundry back upstairs in a basket if you must, because it is not as painful falling up the stairs facing them as it is facing down the stairs and falling backward or forward and downward.

Lifting: I KNOW you know not to bend over. But contrary to popular belief, bending both knees, the squat. This moves your center of gravity to the front, leaves you out of balance, and stretching out the arms again to strain your back. Instead, a good chiropractor will tell you to kneel on one knee with the other one bent, and then raise yourself and your load up.

These few small changes around the house will help prevent those unexpected back injuries, and keep you out of my office for awhile.

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