Working Around the House
There are hundreds of ways (some subtle and some readily apparent) that we can injure ourselves working or relaxing in and around the home. By not following basic safety precautions and just simple common sense, we put our health at risk doing even the simplest of tasks.
Following are some simple tips to follow.
- Avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder. This can lock up the spinal joints in the neck and upper back. Consider a speakerphone or wireless headset.
- If you need to turn to carry what you’ve picked up, step in the direction of the turn to avoid twisting your body and straining your spine. Raise one foot slightly when standing doing ironing, or rest one foot on a small step stool or box.
- Standing for long periods of time, during dishwashing, for example, can put a great deal of strain on your neck, back, knees, and feet. When standing at the sink, rest one foot on the inside cabinet below the sink and bend the knee on that leg. This will take some of the pressure off.
- Use pillows or some other firm support when sitting in a chair or couch watching television. Don’t use the arm of the chair or couch for a headrest. This strains your neck.
- When lifting, don’t bend from the waist. Squat down by bending both knees, keeping your back straight. This way, you are using your arms and shoulders—not your back—to do the lifting.
- When vacuuming, use the “fencer’s stance” by putting all of your weight on one foot while stepping back and forward with your other. Use the back foot as a pivot when you need to turn
- Make sure your body is properly conditioned when doing outside work. Warmed-up muscles will be less likely to tighten up or snap when under the strains of bending, pulling, pushing, reaching, or stooping. You can warm up by taking a brisk walk or doing simple stretching exercises, such as knee-to-chest pulls, trunk rotations, and side bends with hands above your head and fingers locked.
- Always carry objects close to your body, near your center of gravity. This minimizes the strain to your lower back and neck.
- Change positions if you’re involved in doing a task such as kneeling or sitting. This will improve your circulation and mobility. Don’t overdo it. Alternate between several tasks to keep yourself alert, and take regular rest breaks.
- Let your arms, legs and thighs (not your back) do the work when lifting heavy items, such as bags of mulch or dirt. Bend and straighten at the knees instead of your back and hips. Never pick up a load that causes you to grunt – this is your body telling you that you’re overdoing it.
- The longer the handle on your garden tools, the greater leverage you have and the less force and twisting motions you need to perform routine tasks. Imagine having to rake leaves with a six-inch handle. The longer the handle, the less work and strain. This is especially true for chores involving raking, digging, pushing, and mowing. When doing ground-level chores, such as weeding or planting, do not repeatedly bend over. Rather, get close to the ground by either kneeling or sitting (foam pads or small benches are made especially for these kinds of chores). When doing prolonged tasks, such as raking, hoeing, or digging, frequently switch hands. This helps to maximize the amount of energy reserves you use in muscles on both sides of your body.
- Repetitive motion on one side of your body can lead to serious problems, such as muscle spasms in the neck, shoulder, and lower back. When you stand up after crouching or kneeling for a long period of time, do so slowly and gently to avoid muscle pulls or even joint dislocations. Straighten your legs at the knees, and do not lift your torso at the waist.
- If you have asthma or allergies, wear a mask
- Stand as straight as possible, and keep your head up as you rake or mow.
- Try to mow during the early morning and early evening hours, when the sun is not so hot.
- Drink plenty of liquids to keep your muscles hydrated.
- Protect yourself by wearing a hat, shoes, earplugs, and protective glasses.
- Use as much as your body weight as possible to move your mower (unless it is self-propelled). This will minimize excessive strain to your arms and back.
- When picking up piles of leaves or grass from the grass catcher, bend at your knees, not at your waist.
- When raking leaves, use a “scissors” stance. This entails keeping your right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes. Occasionally switch by putting your left foot forward and right foot back. Always bend at your knees, not the waist, as you pick up leaves. Make piles small to minimize the possibility of straining your back.