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Spring Cleaning the Back-Friendly Way

spring cleaningSoon it will be Spring! Time to finally throw open the windows, breathe deeply and…

give the house a thorough cleaning!

Buzz kill? Undoubtedly. To paraphrase Bette Davis, “Spring cleaning ain’t for sissies.” It is a tedious, strenuous, time-consuming and exhausting project. Worse, heavy cleaning can exacerbate existing back problems and often, create new injury to your spine.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study in 2006 of hotel housekeepers, and found that 91% reported workplace pain, and that 40% of their injuries were to the back, more than any other single body part.

Unless you are a professional housekeeper you might not suffer from cumulative back injuries, but even the most common cleaning tasks are asking for back pain. These include:

  • Around every corner is a task that involves lifting and carrying. Mattresses alone can weigh upwards of 100 lbs; even more with heavy comforters and pillow tops. Use care when making the bed. Tuck sheets under the mattress without lifting it. Get on your knees and make your way around the bed. Situate yourself so you don’t have to lean and never lean over the far side of the mattress to tuck bedding in. Also, avoid twisting and turning. Carrying your cleaning tools and other heavy loads improperly can also hurt your back. It’s important to lift laundry baskets, garbage cans, floor clutter and any heavy bundle properly. Follow safe lifting form: stand close to the object, keep your back straight, bend at the knees and use your legs to lift and never lift anything above shoulder level. Lighten your load, or get a helper to distribute the weight. In every case of lifting or carrying, remember to avoid twisting and leaning when putting things down too. Position yourself directly in front of the new location, use your knees and keep your back straight.
  • Vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathroom fixtures and dusting all involve reaching and bending, which puts a strain on your back and neck. The best advice is to let your tools work for you. Push the vacuum slowly and avoid back and forth motions—your carpets will get just as clean. Use long-handled mops, scrubbers and dusters instead of leaning, twisting and bending.
  • Always avoid overreaching and twisting. Use a ladder or step stool—safely—when cleaning anything beyond comfortable reach and make use of the many long-handled, ergonomically designed tools available now.

Depending on your age and general fitness, you will experience fatigue after a time. Don’t fight it! Take frequent breaks. Stretch. Stay hydrated and by all means, ask for help! Spring cleaning can be much less of a drudgery if you do everything you can to avoid pain, correctly thinking of housekeeping as a physical workout. And be realistic! “A spotless house is a sign of a misspent life.”

*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery