Does it hurt your back to vacuum? I hear this frequently from folks.
Look around your house. I bet you have a lot of tools of various sorts.
What is a tool?
According to Merriam-Webster, a tool is a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task.
The most interesting word in the above definition is aids—meaning helps or assists.
Are your tools helping you accomplish your tasks as well as they could? Could those tools help you a little bit more? Could those tasks be just a little easier?
We often, unknowingly, misuse our tools, making a given task more difficult for ourselves than need be. Sometimes even hurting ourselves in the process.
I am assuming that whatever tool you are using is in good working order. Your vacuum has been serviced, your knife is sharp, and the wheels on your wheelbarrow are oiled. If a given tool is not in proper working order, you will not be getting the maximum amount of assistance from it as possible.
You’ve probably had the experience of grabbing the last grocery cart—the one everyone else has rejected—only to quickly discover why—it’s the one with the wheels that keep sticking instead of rolling freely. You have to physically work harder to push the cart around the shop and direct it where you want to go than if it had been in proper working order. And all the time you are silently swearing under your breath.
So, given that things are well-oiled, sharpened, and serviced what else can go wrong?
Next time you are in the kitchen with a knife be curious about how you use it to cut. How lightly do you glide it back and forth? Do you find yourself tensing in your neck and shoulders, compressing yourself to push down on the knife as you try to cut? Pushing down is an example of unnecessary effort and tension and actually gets in the way of the blade doing the work properly. If it’s sharp all you need to do is glide it back and forth and the knife should do the work of cutting.
If you are pushing down, try physically doing less.
You don’t have to work so hard.
Next time you set out to vacuum be curious about how you do it. Do you lean forward and push and pull the vacuum back and forth quickly with your arm across the carpet? All you really need to do is stand up and gently guide the vacuum around the room, allowing it adequate time to suck up all the dirt.
Make like you are taking the vacuum cleaner for a walk around the room.
If you are leaning forward and doing a lot of work with your arms (and your neck and or back hurts), try physically doing less.
You don’t have to work so hard.
We typically get in the way of our tools helping us by working too hard.
And when we work too hard we don’t allow the tool the chance to do its job.
A big reason we end up working too hard is we are in a perpetual state of rushing.
When we rush we tend to put more unnecessary tension into whatever we are doing. Contributing to shoulder and neck aches and back pain.
The first step when using any tool is to check in to see how you are thinking about what you are doing. Allow yourself to be present with the task at hand instead of thinking you need to get this current task done so you can get on to the next one.
Remind yourself that:
- I have time to do the task at hand
- I can do less and
- I don’t have to work so hard
Your body and your posture will thank you for it.