Last week, we shared several tips to help prevent injuries that commonly occur with seemingly benign movements or activities. This week, we’re adding to the list of tips to help keep your daily activities pain-free.
Moving any amount of weight
Try to limit any lifting, pulling or pushing. Find out from your provider what limits are best for you. But when you must lift, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you’re facing the item with legs planted shoulder width apart.
- If the item is on a table move it to the edge before lifting.
- If it’s lower than your waist, keep your head and back straight and bend with your knees and hips.
- Never lean forward or twist! Just like slouching this adds significant stress to the spine.
- Stand straight up and move your feet forward in small steps.
- Keep the object close to your body to distribute the weight off your arms.
- Then reverse the process to put the item down.
Bending while twisting is the best way to hurt your back. Even in young people. Too many new parents think nothing of lifting their crying, squiggling little sweetheart off the ground and moving them to another room, just to know the pain a ruptured disc can cause.
I keep a small ladder or step stool in places I frequently need them. That way one is always close by when needed, and I don’t have to reach. For those of us with neck pain, this is to be avoided at all costs because reaching above shoulder level puts tremendous pressure on the cervical spine. Add any weight to this scenario and the potential for harm increase even more. But when you must, use both hands to move the item to the edge, then cradle the object and bring in down slowly. If it’s small or light-weight use a grabber instead. One year, I ruptured a disc just by putting up decorations on my daughter’s ceiling. Standing on the ladder, stretching up to reach the perfect spot to attach them for over an hour was more than my neck could tolerate.
You’d think this would be the easiest and most tolerated position. But as we’ve shared, pillows, bed mattress, and body position all impact our comfort level. Whatever you choose, makes sure your spine stays in its natural curve. When getting out of bed, use the log roll technique. Roll onto your side, draw up both knees, push up with your arm into a sitting position while swinging your legs off the bed. Don’t twist or bend the back, keep it straight and supported the entire time. The worst thing you can do is lie directly back and then come straight up. This puts all the pressure on the back.
I couldn’t image surviving without my baths. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when serious injuries can occur. A few simple precautions can help you prevent injury. A grab bars prevent falls. Sadly, too many rely on towel bars or the shower head itself just to find themselves on the floor when they pull out of the wall. Keep non-skid mats on all bathing surfaces. Sit on the side of the bath first then, swing legs into the tub, don’t step over it! Instead of standing to shower, look for an extension wand that allows you to wash your hair while sitting. In a pinch? Use a cup to rinse your hair. Get a shower seat so balance issues and back pain are negated. And don’t forget the toilet. Elevate the unit if getting up and down is a problem and add another grab bar there.
About to sneeze or cough?
The sudden awkward movement and incredible forces generated with both sneezing and coughing can exacerbate pain. Standing decreases the force exerted in the spinal discs, and according to one study, standing and leaning onto a table or even against a wall can cushion the blow. But don’t forget, always cough or sneeze into your elbow to prevent the droplets from getting into the air.
Most of us don’t think about the little things we do all day long that can exacerbate pain. Throwing heavy briefcases or purses onto our shoulders compromises our neck, shoulder, elbow and thumb every time. The weight puts pressure on our cervical spines and the act of rotating the shoulder and elbow under significant weight, while grabbing it on the outstretched thumb to direct where it finally rests, can cause repeated trauma to any or all these areas. The answer is simple- drop the weight as much as possible. Do you really need a huge wallet? Computer? Book? Keep it as mobile and light as possible. Then place the bag onto the shoulder with the opposite hand.
Carrying grocery bags at our sides strains the neck and arm, but especially the elbow. Cradle them in your arms instead.
Really need that 1-pound albatross of a water bottle everywhere you go? If it’s for just a SIP or an occasional pill, try a small cosmetic bottle that holds just a few ounces or pop-up cup.
Grabbing the orange juice out of the fridge? Make sure it’s not by the thumb, but by the entire hand. The thumb isn’t meant to lift, only to guide.
Don’t stop breathing. When we hurt, we tense up and start taking shirt, rapid breaths. This causes us to hyperventilate, which just exacerbates the muscle tension and pain. Use this technique to relax and breathe: Breathe in to the count of five, hold your breathe to the count of five. Hold there for a count of five. Breathe out to a count of five. Repeat if needed.
It may not seem like a lot, but when you realize the little things we do all day long and into the night that can impact our pain, it adds up. These simple ideas can make a difference.