Spring Cleaning With Joint Pain

Looking to get your house spick and span this spring? Here are 5 ways to approach spring cleaning despite your joint pain.

It's the time of year we all start thinking about spring cleaning. And while there's something satisfying about throwing open the windows, clearing out the junk, and starting "fresh" with a clean space, the task of cleaning your entire home can seem like a monumental task. 

For people with arthritis or joint pain, spring cleaning can sound even worse. If you or a loved one experience chronic joint pain and are worried about your upcoming spring cleaning chores, check out these practical ideas that might help you tackle your to-do list.

1. Don't do it all at once. To all you go-getters out there—you really don't have to clean your entire house all in one weekend.

Think about it: it's not very efficient, nor useful, to do all your chores as quickly as possible if it's just going to make you feel more painful and rundown in the days or weeks after a weekend cleaning splurge. This is why self-pacing is such an important skill to develop when you're living with a chronic health condition like joint pain.1 Slowing yourself down may help prevent you from exacerbating your joint pain or experiencing unintended consequences such as slips and falls. 

You know your body best, so figure out a sensible schedule when it comes to tackling your projects. This could mean:

  • Doing just one room or even one task per day
  • Spreading out your cleaning chores over the course of a week or month
  • Scheduling five to ten minute rest breaks for every 30 minutes of cleaning activities

2. Use better body mechanics. It's not just what you do that can affect your joint pain, but how you do it. Perform your spring cleaning tasks in ways that are easier on your body. Here are some ideas that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggest:2

  • Always bend your knees when lifting objects and keep your back strong and stable.
  • Hold objects close to you as you carry them and don't carry something that's too heavy for you to do safely.
  • When vacuuming, avoid excessive twisting. Instead, push the vacuum directly in front of you with two hands (or alternate arms to give each limb a rest).
  • When possible, perform cleaning tasks at waist level (e.g., put items on a table to clean, organize, fold, etc.).
  • If you can safely clean the tub or shower, stand inside it as you do so to avoid excessive reaching and leaning.
  • Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes.
  • Warm up properly! Add in a few light stretches prior to your spring cleaning chores and drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep you (and your joints) well-hydrated. Focus on your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees, or whichever your "problem areas" are. 

3.  Focus on your priority spaces. While spring cleaning is usually associated with going through a house top to bottom, you don't necessarily have to get into every nook and cranny. Instead, think about prioritizing the higher traffic areas in your home first (like your bathroom, kitchen and living room) and save the smaller, less priority tasks (like going through your closet or organizing your garage) for later.

4. Invest in sensible supplies. Along with using your cleaning tools and supplies in an ergonomically correct way, make sure the tools you use suit your abilities and needs. For example, if you buy detergent or window cleaner in bulk, transfer some into a smaller bottle for daily use. That way, you don't have to lug around a heavy container all day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • As space allows, store cleaning supplies in places you use them (e.g., keep bleach wipes in both the bathroom and kitchen).
  • Look for cleaning supplies with comfortable and adjustable handles, lightweight design, retractable cords, etc. 
  • Use wheels when you can, including carts or dollies to move larger supplies. 

5. Delegate when possible. When in doubt, ask for help. You can always delegate larger tasks to willing family members and friends or even hire a professional cleaning service. 

References
  1. Antcliff, D., et al. (2018). Activing pacing: moving beyond taking breaks and slowing down. Quality of Life Research. 27: 1933-1935. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5997723/
  2. Ergonomics and Cumulative Trauma Injuries: The Basics (2020). OSHA Guidelines Presented by the Institute for Ergonomics at Ohio State University. https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/2018-12/fy10_sh-20998-10_Housekeeper_Ergo_Handout-English.pdf
Please let us know how useful this article was to you

Thank you for rating this article.