Enjoy Holiday Cheer without Cleaning Injuries
Reducing Cleaning Injuries Around the House
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute
Tips for Cleaning.
- Clean in an erect posture as often as possible.
- “Test the load” prior to lifting anything to assess how heavy or awkward it is to lift.
- Don’t have your hands above shoulder level for a prolonged time.
- If you stand in one place for a prolonged period of time, shift your body weight from one leg to the other.
- Seek treatment and advice from a Physical Therapist if you get injured while cleaning your house.
It’s about that time to “deck the halls” as you prepare to entertain family and friends throughout the upcoming celebrations. During rush and fuss of preparing for company many people suffer from cleaning injuries. It may sound odd, but unintended household injuries are quite common. By some estimates, household injuries in the U.S. have lead to over 20 millions hospital visits each year, and over 7 million people have suffered debilitating injuries from household accidents.
The stress and strain of holiday preparation can make us unwitting victims of our own careless mistakes. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind throughout the season to help reduce cleaning injuries.
Avoiding Slips and Falls
Be aware of your surroundings. You’re so familiar with your surroundings that you move around your house on autopilot. As a result, you may be subject to trip or slip on an object that you hadn’t anticipated. While decorating and cleaning your house, the normal pathways may be overly cluttered. So be sure to pay attention to the pathways through your home. If you do fall, try to avoid stretching out your arm. Instead, try to curl up in the fetal position and cover your head. Landing on an out-stretched arm might result in a fractured wrist, dislocated elbow or rotator cuff tear in your shoulder.
Most injuries that occur while slipping or falling are not as serious as a fracture, but a severely sprained joint can cause as much pain and disability as a fracture. It can take 4-6 months for the sprained joint to fully/completely heals and most fractures heal within 8 weeks. You will need to seek the advice and guidance of a Physical Therapist if you experience an injury of this nature. In either a badly sprained joint or a fractured bone the Physical Therapy treatments can help you re-gain your pre-injury function as quickly as possible.
For the sake of speed or convenience, you might end up lifting too much weight, using one or more of your body parts, or you might stretch or bend or use other movements for an extended period of time. Raising your arms too high, reaching too far forward, and even walking too many steps could cause an “overload” to the soft tissue of the involved joint. If the “over-load” exceeds the tensile strength of the soft tissue, it will damage the soft tissue causing a strain type injury.
If you do experience this type of injury following a “cleaning” session, seek the advice of a Physical Therapist. They have many types of treatment protocols that will address the symptoms of a strained body part and help restore normal function to its pre –injury status more quickly than “letting it heal on its own.”
A Few Ideas for Reducing Cleaning Injuries
VACUUMING: Stand tall and erect. Try to keep your feet staggered or in a “scissors” stance. Move your feet and try not to lean forward to extend your arm to push the vacuum. Over extending your shoulder can lead to painful tendonitis in the shoulder and leaning too far at the waist puts extra strain on the low back muscles and joints.
CLEANING ABOVE SHOULDER LEVEL: You should never have your hands above shoulder level for a prolonged period of time unless you take a lot of short breaks. Reaching up can have a negative effect on your neck, also. If you have to reach above shoulder level for a long time, you should use an extension pole.
If you choose to use a stepladder, you should purchase a very sturdy one. Remember, a ladder that has handrails would be the safest kind available. Any time you can perform the task at hand in an area that lies between your waist and shoulders you will decrease the chances of developing an injury due to reaching too far.
CLEANING DOWN LOW: As you well know, many areas that need to be cleaned are below your waist. When this is the case attempt to squat with bent (flexed) knees if you are going to be squatting for a short period of time. If you have to stay “low” for a long time, consider getting a pad or pillow to kneel on and this will protect your back. If you remain flexed for too long, the low back muscles will begin to fatigue and can go into a protective spasm. Obviously, this would create a lot of discomfort and pain and force you to move awkwardly and/or cause you to stop altogether. The padding will protect your knees from developing bursitis (“housemaid’s knee) in the area of the Patella. If you get hurt seek advice on treatment techniques from a Physical Therapist. They are trained to treat this and many other types of injuries.
MOVING OBJECTS: Whether cleaning or decorating, you’re probably going to need to move some objects. Remember to “test the load” prior to moving the object. Some things look small but can be extremely heavy. Other items might be bulky and awkward to move and cause you to twist or jerk unexpectedly when you lift them, causing an injury. Be sure to use good lifting techniques with bent knees and “straight” back. Your chest should be up and out. Use both hands and when lifting don’t reach too far away from your torso. Attempt to keep the object as close to your body as possible and if the object is large it is better to push it than pull it. Pushing allows the lumbar spine to remain in its natural “C” curve shape, which is the optimal position for it to avoid injury.
Cleaning your house to prepare for guests or for the every day life that your family lives can be taxing and cause injuries to various parts of the body. If you take your time, use good body mechanics, take several rest periods, and think before you act you can clean your whole house without hurting yourself!
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