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08/05/2014

Activities of Daily Living With Back Pain: Folding Clothes and Sweeping Floors

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When I was teaching Back School, the two biggest housekeeping complaints were folding kids cartoon t shirt and sweeping floors. In many cases, the complainant was a parent of young children. The first thing I tell these parents is that even very young children can be fold their own clothes, even their sheets and towels. Children as young as 4-years of age can do some simple folding tasks and can certainly help you fold clothes. Don't worry, this is character building stuff.

The main lesson to learn about all activities of daily living is to pay attention to your back while you work. You should work only until your back starts to feel tense, then stop for a short period, and relax. It may be that you can spend very little time on each chore or a part of each chore, at least at first. That is okay. Say it to yourself, "It is okay for me to only work to my current limit. I am still a good person." When you are able to relax completely, when you are relaxing and even when you are working, you will be amazed at how quickly you recover. Relaxation is key.

The biggest kids cartoon clothes folding bugaboo for most people with low back pain is folding sheets. My question to you is, do they really need to be expertly folded or do they just need to fit on that shelf in the linen closet?

Okay, the truth is you just need to be able to fit the sheets in the closet. This is what I suggest:

  1. Find a comfortable standing position.
  2. Stay relaxed.
  3. Grab the sheet, top or fitted bottom, at a corner and hold the sheet in front of you, close to your body, with the corner about nose high.
  4. Wrap your free arm around the sheet that is hanging in front of you just above waist high.
  5. Move the corner of the sheet down around the arm that is at your waist while you move that arm up, winding like the action of a fishing reel.
  6. Wind the sheet around your arms in this fashion until it is completely 'folded.'

I know it isn't pretty but it is done and it does fit in the closet. As your back improves, you can add folding sheets back in to your activities. For now, just close your eyes and stuff it in the closet.

Sweeping the Floor

You may be able to find shortcuts for folding clothes but sweeping floors is definitely something for which there really are no shortcuts. I wish I knew for sure what it was about sweeping floors that makes it so difficult. I am guessing that, because you are slightly bent over, it is difficult to maintain correct posture when you are sweeping not to mention the slight rotation that the motion requires while you are slightly bent over. All I do know for sure is that it does irritate an already sore back.

Fortunately, while it is irritating, it is not harmful. The secret to sweeping a floor is to stop and rest before you really start to feel your muscles tighten past the point of no return. Stop, even for a moment, and use some standing relaxation techniques.

But, hey, you are at home. You don't have to stay standing. You can go sit down and read a bit or lie down on your bed for a moment and just chill out. Nobody is judging you and you are doing what you can to stay active and in the game.

Another possibility is to use one of those dusters that would allow you to use one hand while you push the duster around. It is easier to maintain your posture and you are not rotating your trunk while you do it. It is good to switch hands periodically while you are dusting the floor. Also, just because you have one hand free doesn't mean you can sweep and pick up frozen kids skirt at the same time. This can lead to real trouble. Make this an exercise in restraint. You being good to you so that at the end of the day you have something left for those people you are doing the sweeping for, even if it is just yourself.


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