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  • 5 Body-Saving Tips for This Year’s Spring Clean-up

    spring is here!

    WooHoo!! Spring has finally come to Michigan, and I think it might actually stay. Crocuses throughout the neighborhood finally started blooming yesterday, and the pop of color they bring is more welcome than normal this year. Everything looks dirty this spring – the streets, buildings, sidewalks, lawns, and even the dirt looks dirtier than normal.

    A few good rains will wash away some of the crud, but the dirtiness is beyond what a few rains will take care of. It seems that most of my neighborhood (including my husband and me) are planning to get out this weekend to start removing debris from our yards and to start cleaning out the flower beds, rake the matted lawn into some semblance of “lawn-ness,” and tie up all the loose twigs and branches that gave way under this year’s record levels of snow.

    In addition, it’s almost warm enough to throw the windows open and to do some thorough spring cleaning inside. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to open the windows! And I’ve got a few cleaning, painting, and refinishing projects I can’t wait to get started on once I do.

    If years past are any indication, all this clean-up is bound to lead to a few aches and pains, and maybe even a few pulled muscles. To that end, I’ve got 5 simple tips to keep yourself pain free this spring.

    • Squat – Place your feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees, and squat down to grab hold of whatever you need to pick up; even if it’s just a sock off the bedroom floor. It’s much easier on your low back if you squat down than if you bend over. Several of the muscles in the low back can be overstretched when you bend over to pick something up, especially if you bend at the waist. Overstretched muscles are weak and can be easily damaged, especially when given the added strain of being recruited to help lift something other than your body.
    • Bend at the hips – If you absolutely *must* bend, bend at the hips, not the waist. You see, the waist is not actually a joint. Yes, there is a joint between each vertebra but those joints are not designed to give more than a small amount of movement. Your hips, on the other hand, are designed to give both your legs and your torso a great deal of movement. In fact, bending at the hips will, theoretically, allow you to fold yourself in two; although I don’t recommend going to that extreme. Most of us sit too much, bend incorrectly, and generally have too many restrictions in the hip joint for that to be a safe recommendation. To be safe, when you do bend at the hips, you should also bend at the knees as well.
    • Get closer – Whether you’re weeding the flower beds, washing the walls, painting the house, or scrubbing the floor, the worst thing you can do is to lean over to reach a little bit farther. The muscles in your low back that let you bend toward one side have a primary function of stabilizing your core. The more you reach, the greater likelihood of over stretching and damaging your low back muscles. I know it slows you down to keep moving, but it will slow you down even more to hurt your back by over stretching those muscles.
    • Kneel safely – Whether your knees are healthy or arthritic, there’s nothing that makes them quite so uncomfortable as kneeling on a hard surface for long periods of time. Kneeling on something soft reduces that strain (that’s one of the reasons they make kneeling pads for gardeners). Whether you use a store bought one or you make your own out of some folded towels and a plastic bag (I like the zippered kind that sheets come in), your knees will thank you. 
    • Keep it close to you – Whenever you carry something, you want to keep it as close to your body as possible. This keeps the weight as close as possible to your own center of gravity, which will reduce the strain on your low back. It also reduces the strain on your arms, because the force of the package weight on your arms increases the farther they are from your body.

    I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t include the standard safe lifting pics. Quite frankly, every one I looked at bored me silly. So I decided to spread a little love and happiness instead. Besides, I’ve never been soooo happy to see crocuses as I am this year.