Like most Californians, I’ve been staying at home during the pandemic and wildfires. I’ve been using just about all my free time cleaning up: I’ve purged many items out of my garage and closets, and my yard’s looking pretty impressive. What isn’t so great, however, are my aching feet, sore back, and stiff neck.
Many local governments like mine have mostly eliminated large yard-waste pickup. Residents are required to hoist their heavy piles of leaves and clippings into a bin, which can be a back-breaking business, especially if it’s not done correctly.
“Smaller loads are better,” said licensed California chiropractor Heather Dehn. “Also, be very careful about bending and twisting. Do not bend to lift and then twist to put it in the receptacle. Once you have lifted the items, turn your entire body, not just twist at the waist, to place the items in the can.”
For raking and digging, Dehn suggests using your legs instead of your back and arms to reach and pull.
Vacuuming and mopping are chores that can be the hardest on your back, according to Dehn. Her advice: keep your mop or vacuum handle closest to your waist.
“Push the vacuum or mop while you walk forward in a straight line. At the end of the room, simply turn and walk in the other direction. Going back and forth should take care of the majority of the room,” she said, noting again that you should not do any twisting or turning while you’re pushing in a straight line.
I’ve also noticed that spending six to eight hours running around doing chores hasn’t exactly done wonders to my feet. The sides of my heels often throb and, by the end of the day, I can hardly walk. What am I doing wrong? The part I’m talking about is the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Overusing the calf muscle can cause swelling and inflammation around the Achilles tendon. Try stretching, massaging, and resting your feet to bring on some relief. A good pair of shoes will also lend your feet some necessary support.
Looking up, reaching, lifting, and putting items down while cleaning out rafters and closet shelves can also be tough on the back and neck. Using your legs is key to protecting your back by keeping you from putting too much strain on your lower back.
“Stand in a scissor stance with one leg ahead of the other—this way, as you bend your knees, you will travel forward, and the pressure will be on your strong, large leg muscles, not your more delicate back muscles,” Dehn said. Also, limit the time you spend looking up. If your neck is sore, try some neck stretches on both sides, chin tucks, and shoulder retractions.
If you’ve taken precautions to spare your back and neck while spending your spare COVID-19 hours cleaning your space and you still need to see a specialist, check out the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Board of Podiatric Medicine, Board of Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy Board of California. You can verify a professional’s license by visiting search.dca.ca.gov.