31 March 2020
Lockdown: Tips to prevent injury in the home or garden
As we try to manage boredom levels during “COVID lockdown”, many of us will focus our time and effort on improving the home or garden. Clearing out sheds, fixing wind damaged fences, sorting out the loft, painting, decorating and many more manual jobs.
These are jobs that might normally be allowed to build up, maybe attempting to tick off one job every other weekend, perhaps paying someone to come in and do it. But these are very different times and with the weather taking a turn for the better and bags of free time, for most of us its a pleasure to have a purpose.
However, the tasks you are about to take on will be very different from your normal day to day activity. So it’s important to realise that your body is not use to this kind of activity and just like DIY, without that little bit of preparation and conscious recognition of your own ability and fitness level, these jobs may lead to a back or neck injury that then prevents you from continuing with the tasks in hand.
As a keen DIYer myself I have learnt the hard way. By not listening to the protests your body is making can lead to injury and an abandoned project. So when we come out of lockdown, and want to start rebuilding social connections with family and friends the last thing you need is a long list of unfinished DIY “To Do’s!
Many episodes of back pain are due to the prolonged stretching of tendons and ligaments in the spine and pelvis. If this strain continues it can lead to a gradual loss of support for your back and joint wear and tear. Pressure can also increase on the spinal nerves and cause pain elsewhere.
The result is often a mild injury, such as an ache in the lower back.
Many people believe that the aches from DIY are temporary and they will resolve once the job is finished. It is never a good idea to work through an ache, it is a sign that something in the body is upset. Whether you are painting a ceiling with stiffness in the neck or jet spraying the patio with a “niggle” in the low back. If you continue to aggravate the injury then further damage can occur to the soft tissue structures that may lead to sharper pains and possibly muscle spasm.
This is when I usually see people in clinic who are struggling to move because their back or neck has ”locked up” but whilst we are in lockdown and not available to help ease the pain and spasm, I would much prefer that patients try to prevent an injury as much as possible.
So you can enjoy the process of improving your home and the results of your hard work, here are some simple tips to avoid injury:
Always lift heavy items with caution. Approach them slowly, get a firm grip, bend your knees and keep your back straight, take the weight with your legs and not with your lower back. Always keep the load close to your body and try not to pivot on your legs but turn your whole body. If you have to move heavy loads, use a wheelbarrow or a trolley.
Kneeling on one leg is much better than bending down repeatedly from the hips. But if you suffer from knee problems or osteoarthritis always use a cushion to kneel on.
Set your workbench at a level that allows you to work without bending forward from the hips. Take a break from prolonged periods of standing by varying your tasks.
That cup of tea isn’t just a thirst quencher, taking a break gives your muscles, ligaments and joints a rest, allowing you to carry on for a little longer.
A long soak in the bath at the end of a hard day can help to relax those hard worked muscles.
If you wake up the next day in pain, you must rest and recuperate!
Should the pain persist, you can call Bodyfix as our lines are still open to give advice and guidance on how to manage at home, stretches to ease the pain and whether you should apply heat or ice packs to the injured area.
Be sensible. Take simple precautions and do not work beyond your capacity. If you exercise and keep fit, you will be in much better shape for tackling all those DIY jobs.