This year, I will...stop damaging my back

This year, I will...stop damaging my back

The turkey’s all gone, you haven’t heard ‘Walking in the Air’ for at least a week and some of your friends have already taken the tree down. Christmas is over and it’s time to make some New Year’s Resolutions.

Of course, stopping smoking, losing weight and saving money are the most common resolutions, but how about something a little different? What if we told you, you could improve your long-term health and wellbeing without spending a penny, simply by making a handful of changes to the way you carry out your everyday household activities?

With the majority of bad backs, aches and pains being picked up at home, just making a small change to the way you brush your teeth or check Facebook can help prevent serious damage and long-term back, neck, joint and upper limb problems.

Now, after analysing the problems that their patients present to them, experts at Physio Med have identified the top ten everyday activities and tasks that can put your body on the line if you do them wrong – and how to do them correctly.

Checking Social Media on Mobile Devices

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – The new tablet you got for Christmas may still have its screen protector on but it’s your back that will need protecting if you’re not careful. Whether sitting or standing, most of us hold devices in our lap, or below chest level, causing us to look down or lean forward, resulting in damage and muscle stiffness in the upper back and neck. Staring at the screen for too long can also cause eye strain.

Physio Med’s advice – “Always hold the device at chest height, so the top of it is level with your eyes, and take regular screen breaks.”

Brushing Teeth, Ironing and Washing Up

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Also known as ‘waiter’s lean’ these tasks often involve leaning forward over an object – such as a sink or ironing board -  and repeatedly twisting, which can cause damage to your lower back, neck and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Use a small foot stool or bathroom scale to lift one foot. This stops you from leaning, forces you to adjust your posture and keeps your lower back straight.”


What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – If you move your whole body while leaning and twisting to vacuum, it can hurt your upper and lower back. Similarly, over-reaching can put a strain on your shoulders and gripping the vacuum for extended periods is bad news for your elbows.

Physio Med’s advice – “Keep your back straight and move your arms, not your spine. Take regular breaks or share the task with someone else. Make sure the hoover isn’t too heavy for you to move BEFORE buying it.”

Emptying the Dishwasher

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – One of your resolutions may be eating less, but you’ll still have dishes to wash. If you simply bend from your waist to load or unload a machine – especially with heavy items such as pans – you put strain on your upper back, lower back and hips. Kneeling is no better as it is torture for your knees, while repeatedly gripping and lifting items can damage your elbows.

Physio Med’s advice – “Keep your back straight, bend from the knees and avoid kneeling. Load the heaviest items at the front of the dishwasher and don’t twist when unloading them.”

Putting Babies and Children into Car Seats

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Twisting and leaning forward or over-reaching while holding the baby can harm your lower back and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Hold the baby close to your body, bend with your knees and move your feet – don’t twist your back. Prepare by doing light back stretching exercises first.”

Carrying Items Up/Downstairs and Stocking High Cupboards

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Simple lifting and carrying advice is everywhere, but most people still ignore it! Twisting and over-reaching whilst carrying items damages your lower back, upper back and shoulders, while repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy loads can cause repetitive strain injuries to the knees.

Physio Med’s advice – “Hold items close to your body and keep your back straight. Twist from your feet, not your back or shoulders. NEVER try to carry something you struggle to even lift, get someone to help you instead.”

Making the Bed

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – There might be fewer ‘hospital corners’ in bedrooms these days but twisting and over-reaching to cover all four corners of the bed with sheets and duvets can still damage your upper and lower back and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Don’t bend over to reach across the bed, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Get someone to help, especially when changing duvet covers.”

Washing Windows

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – The Karate Kid mantra of ‘Wax on, wax off’ is worth remembering when washing windows! Twisting and over-using one arm can damage your upper and lower back and shoulders, while gripping for extended periods and using repetitive motions can also cause elbow injuries.

Physio Med’s advice – “Avoid using one side of the body more than the other by alternating hands or using a different hand to clean each window. Keep your body straight at all times and wash windows from a face on position. Use a ladder for high windows and take a break if necessary.”

Watching TV

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Unless you’ve given up TV for 2018, chilling on the sofa after work is what gets many people through the day – after all, what could possibly go wrong? Well, sitting with your legs crossed can damage your hips and knees, and sitting for too long, or just leaning forward in excitement, can damage your lower back.

Physio Med’s advice – “Stand up, or at least uncross your legs, every 20 minutes. Sit with your back straight and make sure you’re face-on to the screen, not at an angle.”

Folding Washing

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Surely folding all your new clothes can’t be risky? Guess again! Stooping over to fold clothes on a low surface, or doing it while sitting on the sofa and twisting from one side to the other, is a nightmare for your lower back. Doing this task while kneeling down won’t do your knees any favours either.

Physio Med’s advice – “If you’re standing up to do your folding, put the clothes on a surface which is at waist height to stop you bending over. Alternatively, do it whilst sitting upright in a comfortable position at a table. And think ahead when putting your folded clothes away – try storing commonly used items, such as socks, in drawers at waist height, and those you use the least, like jumpers in the winter, in lower drawers.”

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