It’s that time of year again, when cleaning out your closet, attic, spare room, garage, garden, and every nook and cranny of your home suddenly rises to the top of the “to do” list. Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in multiple cultures and regions around the globe. But did you know that this annual ritual can actually be good for your back?
Increased physical activity can lead to greater spine health.
Simply put, the end of winter and beginning of longer, brighter days in April and May has a real biological impact on our bodies that puts many of us in the mood to get those chores underway. Our greater exposure to sunlight in the spring causes the brain’s pineal gland to produce less melatonin – a hormone that causes drowsiness – than it did during winter. As a result, most of us find we have more energy and a greater desire to “get up and go” than we did in the darker, colder months. And that’s a very good thing for the spine.
Learn about the connection between winter weather and back pain here.
Being physically active helps you lose weight, strengthen your muscles and ward off preventable diseases, all of which are important factors in keeping you free of back pain. It also allows your body to pump up production of feel-good endorphins that improve your mood and energy, helping you avoid the interrelated symptoms of depression and back pain.
You’ll burn plenty of calories while you’re cleaning.
As we told you in a previous blog post, household chores like vacuuming, mopping and sweeping the floor actually help you burn off those extra calories at a rate of up to 50 per every 15 minutes. If you’re working out in the yard, you can do even better, with chores like trimming the lawn with a push mower burning as many as 100 calories in just 20 minutes! That’s fairly efficient exercise that can help you manage your weight – which in turn reduces the load on your back muscles and lessens your chances for back pain. Just remember to practice proper body mechanics such as lifting (or pushing) with your legs and avoiding awkward twisting and excessive reaching movements. And always, ALWAYS stretch and warm your muscles prior to getting down to work!
For tips on proper bending, lifting and twisting techniques, watch this quick video on lifting heavier objects and this brief demonstration of how to vacuum without straining your back.
Spring cleaning is a great time to reduce clutter and focus on home safety.
As you focus on getting rid of things you haven’t used all year, now is a great time to carefully consider small additions to your home that can minimize potential fall and slipping hazards. Reducing floor clutter by putting away kids’ and pets’ toys is one way to avoid trips and falls, but what about putting night lights in the hallway or adding grab bars in the shower?
If your spring cleaning involves climbing up on a ladder, practice an abundance of caution by getting someone to spot you, wearing the proper footwear and avoiding the need to stretch out too far from where your feet are planted. Take a close look at any area rugs or loose carpets that may set you up for a fall, and be sure that pet dishes are positioned well away from walkways where splashed water could cause you to slip. And if your cleaning involves moving heavy furniture around, don’t forget to stretch first, lift with your legs, and whenever possible, use furniture sliders to avoid a back strain or sprain.
Read more about how to prevent falls and spinal injuries in the home right here.
For an innovative twist on spring cleaning, look no further than your own wallet or purse.
Men who routinely keep a thick wallet in their back pocket risk sitting in an ergonomically incorrect position that puts undue stress on their spine while compressing the major nerve that winds from their buttock into their leg. When this nerve becomes inflamed, it’s not uncommon to experience sciatic pain and tingling sensations throughout the lower back and extremities. That’s why switching to a thinner wallet – or better yet, putting your wallet in a jacket pocket – can be a great idea this spring.
Likewise, women can benefit their backs by clearing their purses of heavy items they don’t really need to be hauling around all the time. If you have a large purse, try weighing it on your bathroom scale. Many women may be surprised to learn that they are routinely hanging more than 10 pounds from their shoulder, which puts them at risk for serious back and neck pain. Pare down your purse contents to well under 10 percent of your body weight, and you’ll be doing your spine a favor this season.
For some quick tips on choosing the right bag for your back, visit the Spine U video library.
So there you have it – spring cleaning can be good for your body as well as your spirit. By decluttering your house, getting a workout doing chores, increasing slip and fall protections in your home and minimizing the things you carry with you every day, you’ll get your house in order while safeguarding your spine from unnecessary injuries.
If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain that makes spring cleaning an untenable chore, talk to the team at the Spine Health Institute in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Dr. Chetan Patel and his staff can provide expert diagnostics along with minimally invasive treatment options for a wide variety of spine problems. Call 866.986.7497 or click on the Book Online button at the top of this page to make an appointment.
Back Pain Tips: Help With Housework (n.d.). Retrieved from WebMD.com: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/avoid-housework-pain
11 Spring Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid (n.d.). Retrieved from Safebee.com: http://www.safebee.com/home/11-spring-cleaning-mistakes-avoid
Back Pain: Cure it by Cleaning Out Your Wallet (7/15/2010). Retrieved from CBSNews.com: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/back-pain-cure-it-by-cleaning-out-your-wallet/