Submitted by Dr. Jennifer Penrose Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy

I can’t begin to tell you how many people we have seen over the years think their back pain will never improve and this is the new normal. In fact, a gentleman in his 80s said in our clinic today that prior to coming to us he had a low opinion of physical therapy. He had tried physical therapy in the past and it was always a sheet of exercises. This time at Penrose PT he said it was different. We listened to him and we came up with strategies to help in the moment. He struggled with driving his car and we gave him simple things that worked to decrease his pain while he was driving. He started to realize that coming to physical therapy was like coming to a mechanic for the human body and a consultant at the same time. We listen to what is bothering you and try to find solutions for that particular problem. Yes, sometimes it comes with homework of some exercises but many times it comes with what to do in the moment of pain that is extremely helpful. We often go over how to move better or how to position yourself to lessen the strain to the area while doing the task that bothers you. We also use hands-on techniques and other options to help with pain and improve the movement of the area.

Has this ever happened to you You’re going about your day doing your usual day-to-day jobs, you could be doing something as simple as taking out the trash, gardening, or bending over to pick up laundry and all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your back and you can hardly move… Sound familiar?  Just a few weeks ago this happened to one of our patients Anne, 57, from Lacey.  She was making the most of a shelter in place, and before she planned to relax for the day she decided to do some cleaning. Anne was fine to begin with, but as soon as she went to turn over her mattress, she put her back out completely.

At first, the pain wasn’t so bad, but then a few hours later her back began to stiffen up. Like most people we see, she thought at first, Oh it’s just a stiff back, I’ve probably got a bit carried away with the cleaning, it’s happened before.But the next day the pain was still there, and it felt even worse!

Anne’s back started to ache when she sat down, she struggled to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in, and she couldn’t even bring herself to stand without being in agony and she had a weekend away planned.

How was she going to get away now with a back so painful? Now you might be thinking this won’t happen to you, not with something as basic as everyday chores, but when you consider that most of us do some form of jobs around the house, that’s a lot of backs that could potentially become sore! And not just that, most people we see say they suffer from back pain when doing routine activities such as chores that cause flare-ups.

The thing is, many people will ‘put up’ with a bad back for days (even weeks!), hoping the pain will go away on its own eventually, but you don’t have to play the waiting game and suffer for so long, especially not if it’s getting in the way of daily life and even trips away and events that you’ve been looking forward to for ages! So how about I give you two quick tips for everyday housework jobs to help make agonizing back pain a thing of the past – because chores themselves aren’t to blame (even though we’d like to think they are) – it’s how you do them.

1. When using the vacuum cleaner or a mop: one of the most common mistakes people make is reaching out with their arms while bending at the waist over and over again. Bending over in awkward positions can place a lot of strain on your muscles – especially in your back! To help fix this the key is to keep your hips and shoulders moving towards the work. What I mean by this is instead of leaning forward and twisting your back, step forward in the direction of the movement with one foot and bend slightly at the knee, allowing your upper body to stay upright to reduce any strain.

2. When doing the laundry or picking up items: Rescuing that lost sock from the bedroom floor by leaning over can trigger back pain. Similar to sweeping and using the vacuum, bending at the waist repeatedly will strain your back muscles. To get around this I tell my patients to do something I like to call the golfer’s reach, it has this name because it’s similar to how golfers pick up a ball. When you reach for items with your right hand, balance yourself by lifting your leg up in the air. If you need extra support, place your opposite hand on a nearby surface. If you’re reaching with your left hand, reverse the directions. The deeper you reach with your hand, the higher your opposite leg should go so that you can keep your balance while simultaneously reducing the amount of strain on your back muscles.

One more thing, I know it can be easy to get caught up, rushing around the house to get everything done but one thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and take 20-minute breaks throughout. Drink some water and relax before returning to your chores. If you start feeling any signs of pain, walk, stretch and rest your back. Don’t allow yourself to get so busy checking chores off your to-do list that you forget the safe way to move your body.

Lastly, if you want to attend our free low back pain workshop on February 8, 2024, from 6 p.m. -7 p.m.you can email to RSVP info@penrosept.com as seats are limited! Location: 1445 Galaxy Dr. NE Suite 301 Lacey WA 98516

Here’s What You’ll Learn at This Workshop

  • The 7 urgent coping strategies every back pain sufferer must never forget when back pain strikes!
  • Why 50-53% of people make their own back pain WORSE by doing just this one thing wrong!
  • The 7 things you can do if you’re hoping to avoid surgery that’ll cost you nothing…
  • The most successful treatments for low back pain that don’t involve any drugs.
  • The 3 best exercises that you can do at home, in your living room or even from your couch, that’ll help you walk further for longer.

You Should Only Attend This Workshop if:

1) You or a loved one suffer from back pain

2) You are aged 40+ and have suffered with low back pain for longer than you feel you should have

3) You are currently seeing a doctor or thinking about it

4) You have an open mind and willing to act upon new advice

The author, Jennifer Penrose, is a Physical Therapist and owner of Penrose Physical Therapy. If you have any questions about back pain, you can call 360.456.1444 or email info@penrosept.com.

Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy won first place for best Physical Therapy clinic in the South Sound in 2023 and we are committed to an excellent experience. Dr. Penrose is the host of the podcast “Stay Healthy South Sound” and has authored 2 books: “Forever Young: You Can Age Gracefully” and “Run Forever: Secrets to common running and walking injuries.” You can find more information at the Penrose Physical Therapy website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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