I imagine you know how to use your equipment — what I’m concerned with is: How are you using your body?
My Bowen Therapy clients often complain of back pain when sweeping or vacuuming; they have had to find someone else to do it for them.
There is a pervasive tendency to bend forward when doing these chores, but there is usually no good reason for it! It seems to be a natural tendency, judging by scenes in movies and all the pictures on the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s optimal — because bending forward while doing these kinds of activities is likely to lead to trouble for your back.
When you lean forward, gravity is pushing on all of your upper body. Your head alone is 12 to 15 pounds; now add torso, shoulders, and arms that are busying themselves, and the poor, overworked lumbar region is working overtime holding up all this. Now add the swinging motions of sweeping or vacuuming and disaster is just waiting to happen: pop! goes a vertebra and all of a sudden you can’t straighten out. Or your back is merely achy and sore afterwards.
There is a way to avoid this, and you don’t even have to exercise to do it. What it takes is becoming aware of how you move through space, how you’re using your body.
Try this instead:
- Make sure you’re keeping your body upright and not bending forward.
- Move your hips slightly forward and keep them forward. Imagine that you are a car and your hips are the headlights: “Hips as headlights” (credit to Bowen Therapy teacher Robyn Wood).
- Let the moves come from your feet and swing those hips!
- Change sides often.
Notice how this method uses the whole body — it’s your whole body doing the motion, not just the arms and shoulders.
The movement lessons I am sharing in this blog are often counter to how things are commonly done. Most people are so used to doing things a certain way that initially they might be completely unaware of how they move. At first, it might feel hard to change the way you’re used to doing things, but be patient with yourself and let repetition be your teacher. Your reward will be less pain.
You gotta start somewhere: Start to become aware of how your body aligns with gravity, and gently correct yourself when needed.
My mother-in-law taught me that vacuuming can be done while sitting down — as a matter of fact, it makes it easier to reach under a table this way. (I find that cleaning the fridge is also easier while seated.)
Yet another way to move: Extend the leg behind you and get some glute squeezes done at the same time (keep the back of your head in line with your spine).
If you still have pain, consider getting a Bowen or microcurrent session at my studio at the south end of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino coast of northern California.
To your easy moves,