Suffer from chronic back pain while moving about at home? Even if you’re not engaging in rigorous exercises, back pain can be caused by a simple daily household activity.
David Lask, a chiropractor based in Missouri, told Newsweek: “There are some chores around the house that may help contribute to getting back pain.”
The chiropractor explained that a “repeated bending and twisting” movement, which many house chores tend to involve, is “stressful to the lumbar spine.” Performed with an added load, this movement is “especially hard on the back,” he said.
Chronic pain is among the most common chronic conditions in the U.S., according to a February 2022 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Pain. The study said “50.2 million adults (20.5 percent) reported pain on most days or every day,” with back pain among the most common pain locations, citing data from the 2019 edition of the National Health Interview Survey.
A May 2023 study published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Rheumatology found that “low back pain is highly prevalent and the main cause of years lived with disability (YLDs).” In 2020, low back pain affected 619 million people globally, with 843 million prevalent cases projected by 2050, according to the study.
Household Activities You Should Avoid to Prevent Back Pain
Below, chiropractors highlight some daily household activities and movements you should avoid to help prevent back pain.
Washing the Dishes
Chiropractor Anjali Agrawal told Newsweek that doing the dishes can be harmful for your back because as “human beings, we were designed for movement, not static posture.”
Therefore, standing and washing the dishes can cause us to “put our weight on one hip, or to fatigue our core muscles, which may be a little weak already, and that can create overarching of the low back,” said Agrawal, who is the founder of Back in Balance, a chiropractic practice based in Los Altos, California.
The same issues arise for other activities that entail “standing in one place for extended periods of time,” such as chopping vegetables at a kitchen counter. “Similar to washing dishes, this can cause low back strain,” she said.
Obviously, washing the dishes can’t be avoided entirely, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. However, there are ways to modify your stance while doing the activity.
Lask, who is the founder of Ask Dr. Lask, a chiropractic practice based in Crestwood, Missouri, said: “When doing dishes, try not to bend or flex forward over the sink; but instead stand taller and more erect to decrease the stress and strain on the thoracic and lumbar spine.”
Agrawal suggests opening the cabinet door under the sink and propping one foot on top of the bottom edge or placing your foot on a stool. “You can alternate [your feet] if you like or keep the one foot there—whatever feels comfortable to you,” she said.
She explained: “This allows you to distribute your weight between both legs as well as prevents the overarching of the low back.”
Vacuuming, Sweeping and Mopping
Agrawal and Lask say that vacuuming—as well as other chores such as sweeping and mopping and even doing laundry—can cause back pain due to the bending and twisting movement involved.
Agrawal said many people typically bend forward when pushing their vacuum cleaner. “While this may feel easier, bending forward causes us to contract our psoas muscle, one of our main hip flexors.”
Since one side of the psoas muscle attaches to our back, this can often present as back pain, she noted.
Lask said the bending and twisting movement is particularly bad for your back due to the design of the lower lumbar spine.
He explained: “There is a ligament called the posterior longitudinal ligament that runs the length of the spine to stabilize and support the posterior aspect of the gelatinous discs. This important ligament tapers as it reaches the lowest segments of L4/L5 and L5/S1.
“These discs are filled with a jelly-like substance in the nucleus pulposus, which is the center of the disc. This pressurized disc will bulge or rupture through the tree-ring like structures called annular fibers,” he added.
The “rotation and flexion” movement that occurs with vacuuming and the other aforementioned household activities “increases the tensile forces on the lower lumbar discs and increase the odds of rupturing or herniating a disc.”
Agrawal suggests aiming to point your hips up towards the sky, particularly when pushing something like a vacuum (or even a stroller or a grocery cart) to allow your hip flexors to stretch.
Lask advises avoiding certain movements that include flexing forward and rotating simultaneously.
“When lifting an item like a clothes basket, square up to the item, then bend the legs and lift with your legs straight up and then make your turn. When sweeping, vacuuming, mopping try to stand more erect and not so bent over as you twist,” he said.
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