Spring Cleaning and Your Spine

Do's and Don'ts to Avoid Back Pain

woman above a doorway cleaning doorframeWhile there may still be snow in some parts of the country, the calendar has "officially" transitioned to the spring season—a time when many will take it upon themselves to tackle a project or two around the house. If you're like most people, you want to avoid a back injury at almost any cost. So how do you balance being bitten by the spring cleaning "bug" and spine safety while performing these out-of-the-ordinary chores? Here are some quick do's and don'ts.

Spring Cleaning Spinal Do's

  • Stand up straight! Your mother wasn't just trying to get you to practice good posture because she wanted to show off what a well-bred kid she has. Whether she knew it or not, she was training you to stand in such a way that your back will be less prone to injury. No matter the task you're performing, keep your spine in line and be aware of how you're standing and reaching.
  • Lift with your legs, not with your back. This is something you've probably heard repeated several times in your life. When you were younger, you could probably get away with bending at the waist and just straightening from there to lift your side of a couch or bookshelf. When you get into this habit in your youth, you may find yourself in a world of hurt later on. You could slip a disc, tear a muscle, or sustain any number of other painful injuries to your spine. No matter what you're lifting, bend your knees and keep your back straight to avoid injury. Bad habits are hard to break, but better them than your back.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. I know this may not seem like a "spring cleaning" tip, but it is. While you're cleaning up around the house, consider cleaning out your pantry and refrigerator too. People carrying too much weight around in excess fat put a lot of unnecessary and dangerous burden on their spines. If you're overweight or obese, you probably don't have the strongest core muscles, either. This means that you've got weight pulling your spine in all kinds of directions as your weak back muscles try to keep everything in line. Simply losing some of that excess weight can help ease tension on your back and improve your overall health. If, in addition to maintaining a healthy weight, you also incorporate core-strengthening exercises into your routine, you'll see even more benefits. With strong abdominal and back muscles, your core will support your spine, keeping it aligned and healthy. 

Spring Cleaning Spinal Dont's

  • Clear the air and don't smoke. If it's a New Year's resolution you made, keep it up. If you're clearing clutter around the home this spring, consider cleaning out all of the tobacco products too. Not only is smoking bad for your heart and lungs, it is also bad for your spine. Nicotine decreases your body's ability to allow the discs in your spine to absorb the necessary nutrients to maintain their proper function. This weakening of your vertebrae makes it much liklier that you'll suffer from a herniated disc or other spine injury at some point. Nicotine also interferes with the healing process, ensuring that your recovery time will be slower than it would if you didn't smoke. Spring is a great time to introduce yourself to new activities that can keep you busy so you'll be less likely to think about smoking. You CAN do it!
  • Don't skimp on calcium-rich foods, like low-fat milks and cheeses, almonds, black beans, and broccoli. While you're clearing out the kitchen, give your refrigerator a makeover with better foods for spine health. Your spine needs healthy muscles to support it, but it also needs to be healthy itself. With strong bones, you'll be less likely to fracture your spine if you suffer a fall from a ladder, for example.

With some preparation and attention to detail, you can make your springtime cleaning spree the most productive and safest yet!