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Household activities that may be causing you pain (and what you can do to avoid it!)

February 4th, 2021 by
Category: Dr. Emily Ross Health & Wellbeing Pain

Ever wondered why some activities around the home can easily lead to nagging pain that hangs around for far too long?

As a Chiropractor, I often see people coming in with aches and pains after doing simple activities like vacuuming, lifting, cleaning, watching TV or sleeping. When performed incorrectly, these activities may actually be setting yourself up for back pain! So, before you throw away the vacuum, let’s talk about how to use it in a more back-friendly way and stop back pain before it starts! 

Repetitive cleaning tasks

You may find most cleaning tasks repetitive, and that is one of the main reasons why they can cause pain. Repetitive or prolonged poor posture is a main contributor to spinal and joint pain. Leaning forward while vacuuming, bending down to pick up toys, or leaning over into the sink while washing dishes are all common causes of lower back pain

What can you do to prevent low back pain arising from these tasks?

Sometimes bending or leaning over is unavoidable! In such cases, my biggest tip would be to counteract the repetitive movements or postures with breaks or opposing movements. For every 30 minutes you spend in a prolonged position you should get up, move around and change position for a few minutes before returning to the task. 

Two effective stretches you can try to help relieve or prevent low back pain from continued bending/leaning include – 

Cat/cow stretch

  1. Begin by kneeling on all fours with your spine in a neutral position.
  2. Breathe in and arch your back, lifting your tail bone and dropping your chest. Relax your shoulders and lift your head.
  3. As you breathe out, arch your spine up to the ceiling, tucking your tail bone and drawing your head downward.
  4. Continue this flow for 1-2 minutes

Thoracic Extension

  1. Lay with a foam roller or rolled up towel positioned vertically along your spine. Ensure your head and tail bone are supported. 
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands palm up on the ground beside you, about 45-90degrees from your body (you can move them further up for an increased stretch through your chest).
  3. Lay in this position for 10-15 minutes, focus on slow deep breathing while you are there.

If your back pain continues after implementing these changes or trying the stretches, you should visit your local Chiropractor to have your posture assessed and ensure there are no underlying conditions contributing to your pain.

Lifting or moving heavy items

woman lifting boxes while moving house

Sometimes we lift or move things without taking into consideration how heavy the item could be. Simple tasks like turning/flipping your mattress, lifting heavy baskets of laundry or moving furniture, if performed incorrectly, can lead to muscle strain, joint sprain or further injury. 

When we lift, we should be mindful of what we are lifting and how heavy it is. Ask for help if you can. When lifting, make sure you are using an effective lifting technique, focusing on the following:

  • Engaging your core by pulling your belly button to your spine.
  • Don’t bend at your waist – bend your knees to lift.
  • Keep the items close to you while carrying, rather than reaching and holding them out in front.
  • If the item you are holding is particularly heavy, hold it at the height of your chest or stomach. Try not to hold it lower than your knees as this causes you to bend your spine forward, in turn increasing the load or pressure on your back.

If you have lifted or moved something heavy and noticed any back pain, it’s a good idea to visit your local Chiropractor to have a check-up. If you experience any shooting pains, pins and needles down your legs, or pain waking you up at night, you should consult a health practitioner for assessment and further advice on how to lift in future. 

Reaching or twisting awkwardly

Similar to when we are lifting, if we aren’t thinking about how we are using our body while reaching or twisting our bodies, we can cause injury or strain to joints and muscles.

If an item is located high up and out of easy reach, use a step ladder to easily get to the item rather than over-stretching. Avoid twisting while lifting or stretching, instead, try moving or pivoting your whole body instead.  

Sitting on the couch or at a table/desk

Woman sitting on a lounge looking down at a laptop on her lap

Whether it be sitting on the couch binging your favourite TV series or spending countless hours at your home desk, prolonged sitting can lead to postural issues and muscle or joint pain and stiffness.

Try the following to avoid discomfort during and after sitting:

  • Sit with your back against the back of the lounge/chair. You can try placing a rolled up towel or small cushion in your lower back to add some support for the curve in your lower back.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and have your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • Avoid slouching.
  • Try to avoid sitting for long periods of time. Break up the sitting by getting up and moving. For every 30 minutes you sit down, you should try and move around for at least 1 minute. Something as simple as getting a glass of water or doing some stretching is a great place to start.
  • If you’re using your phone or laptop, or reading a book while sitting, hold it at eye level. The same thing applies to your TV or computer screen, try to position it so you look straight at it, instead of having to look up or down

If you are unsure about how you should be sitting or how to set up your desk, visit your local Chiropractor for some further tips and advice. If you try the above tips and still experience pain or stiffness after sitting, visit your Chiropractor for an assessment and postural check. 

Sleeping

We spend around a third of our lives sleeping, and for this reason it’s important that the position we are sleeping in is going to support our spine and allow our muscles to rest and recover for the day ahead.

If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees to take pressure off the lower back. Ensure the pillow under your head isn’t so high that it causes your head and neck to be pushed forward, adding to pressure in the neck.

If you sleep on your side, ensure your pillow is at a height that keeps your neck in a neutral position – not bending up or down too much. In a neutral position, your neck won’t have extra pressure going through one side compared to the other. It allows your neck to lay supported on the pillow and your head to rest gently with minimal pressure. A good indicator when looking at your pillow, it should be as high as your shoulder is wide. Having a pillow that is the correct height also helps you to lay on your shoulders without them rolling forwards. Lastly, try placing a pillow between your knees to prevent your hips rolling forward and putting extra pressure through your low back and hips.

Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach.  

Waking up with stiff or aching joints, or limited movement in your neck can all be signs of poor sleeping posture or habits. Visiting a Chiropractor may help relieve your spinal stiffness and you can also discuss any sleep queries.

Sometimes it’s the simple things around the house that we do without thinking that lead to pain or stiffness. Any prolonged or repetitive activity should be broken up with breaks and stretching. When lifting or moving heavy objects, ask for help and focus on your lifting technique. Sleep is important to help our bodies recover, so make sure that you look after your spine and help it rest by sleeping in a supportive position. 

If you’ve tried all the tips and advice above and you are still experiencing pain or stiffness, or simple tasks aggravate your back pain, then visit a health practitioner for further assessment and more individualised advice. 

 

 

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