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Bad back? You might be brushing your teeth wrong

Bad back? You might be brushing your teeth wrong

Occupational physiotherapy specialist, Physio Med, is launching a consumer campaign to highlight the simple daily activities that are contributing to musculoskeletal conditions.

According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the majority of bad backs, aches and pains that are treated by doctors are non-work related, and therefore picked up at home or in leisure time, so Physio Med looked at some of the everyday tasks that people could be doing incorrectly and which are therefore impacting on their health and wellbeing.

After analysing the problems that their patients present to them, the Physio Med team has highlighted the top ten simple activities – such as brushing teeth, using mobile devices or watching TV – that are regularly done in a position that puts muscles, joints and limbs under pressure. They have now produced a consumer guide showing how NOT to do them, the impact they can have and how to do them correctly.

Jon Bongcawel, Senior Physiotherapist at Physio Med, said: “Many people assume that damage to your neck, back or joints comes from a specific accident or incident, when actually it is often caused by regular, low level activity. It may sound crazy that updating your Facebook status can damage your back but prolonged or regular activity in the incorrect position, no matter what you are doing, can be bad for you and have a huge impact on your health and mobility. Maintaining the correct posture, no matter what you are doing, is absolutely vital to long-term wellbeing.

“We hope this guide will make people take a moment to think about how they move and carry out simple tasks in order to improve their postures – but as a general rule, maintain a straight back as much as possible, bend your knees – and always be aware of what you’re doing!”

1. Checking Social Media on Mobile Devices

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Whether sitting or standing, most of us hold devices in our lap, or below chest level, causing us to look down or lean forward, resulting in damage and muscle stiffness in the upper back and neck. Staring at the screen for too long can also cause eye strain.

Physio Med’s advice – “Always hold the device at chest height, so the top of it is level with your eyes, and take regular screen breaks.”

2. Brushing Teeth, Ironing and Washing Up

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Also known as ‘waiter’s lean’ these tasks often involve leaning forward over an object – such as a sink or ironing board - and repeatedly twisting, which can cause damage to your lower back, neck and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Use a small foot stool or bathroom scale to lift one foot. This stops you from leaning, forces you to adjust your posture and keeps your lower back straight.”

3. Vacuuming

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – If you move your whole body while leaning and twisting to vacuum, it can hurt your upper and lower back. Similarly, over-reaching can put a strain on your shoulders and gripping the vacuum for extended periods is bad news for your elbows.

Physio Med’s advice – “Keep your back straight and move your arms, not your spine. Take regular breaks or share the task with someone else. Make sure the hoover isn’t too heavy for you to move BEFORE buying it.”

4. Emptying the Dishwasher/Washing Machine

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – If you simply bend from your waist to load or unload a machine – especially with heavy items such as pans or wet towels – you put strain on your upper back, lower back and hips. Kneeling is no better as it is torture for your knees, while repeatedly gripping and lifting items can damage your elbows.

Physio Med’s advice – “Keep your back straight, bend from the knees and avoid kneeling. Load the heaviest items at the front of the dishwasher and don’t twist when unloading them.”

5. Putting Babies and Children into Car Seats

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Twisting and leaning forward or over-reaching while holding the baby can harm your lower back and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Hold the baby close to your body, bend with your knees and move your feet – don’t twist your back. Prepare by doing light back stretching exercises first.”

6. Carrying Items Up/Downstairs and Stocking High Cupboards

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Simple lifting and carrying advice is everywhere, but most people still ignore it! Twisting and over-reaching whilst carrying items damages your lower back, upper back and shoulders, while repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy loads can cause repetitive strain injuries to the knees.

Physio Med’s advice – “Hold items close to your body and keep your back straight. Twist from your feet, not your back or shoulders. NEVER try to carry something you struggle to even lift, get someone to help you instead.”

7. Making the Bed

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – There might be fewer ‘hospital corners’ in bedrooms these days but twisting and over-reaching to cover all four corners of the bed with sheets and duvets can still damage your upper and lower back and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Don’t bend over to reach across the bed, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Get someone to help, especially when changing duvet covers.”

8. Washing Windows

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – The Karate Kid mantra of ‘Wax on, wax off’ is worth remembering when washing windows! Twisting and over-using one arm can damage your upper and lower back and shoulders, while gripping for extended periods and using repetitive motions can also cause elbow injuries.

Physio Med’s advice – “Avoid using one side of the body more than the other by alternating hands or using a different hand to clean each window. Keep your body straight at all times and wash windows from a face on position. Use a ladder for high windows and take a break if necessary.”

9. Watching TV

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Chilling on the sofa after a long day. What can possibly go wrong? Well, sitting with your legs crossed can damage your hips and knees, and sitting for too long, or just leaning forward in excitement, can damage your lower back.

Physio Med’s advice – “Stand up, or at least uncross your legs, every 20 minutes. Sit with your back straight and make sure you’re face-on to the screen, not at an angle.”

10. Folding Washing

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Surely folding your clothes can’t be risky? Guess again! Stooping over to fold clothes on a low surface, or doing it while sitting on the sofa and twisting from one side to the other, is a nightmare for your lower back. Doing this task while kneeling down won’t do your knees any favours either!

Physio Med’s advice – “If you’re standing up to do your folding, put the clothes on a surface which is at waist height to stop you bending over. Alternatively, do it whilst sitting upright in a comfortable position at a table. And think ahead when putting your folded clothes away – try storing commonly used items, such as socks, in drawers at waist height, and those you use the least, like jumpers in the winter, in lower drawers.”

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As the situation with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to provide help and support wherever possible. With our technology, free guides and videos, we feel we can make a contribution to the situation today.


In order to continue to provide physiotherapy services to our clients past, present and future, we are now offering an alternative provision in the form of a Telehealth service, which will allow patients to speak to senior physiotherapists for advice, motivation and recommendations of techniques to help manage their conditions.

Remote DSE Assessments

Physio Med’s video link DSE assessment has been developed to provide an effective method of assessing an employee’s ‘at home’ workstation without the need for a physio visit in person. See our general well-being page for in-depth guidance on correct sitting posture and working at a desk. For an in-depth video for setting up a home office please contact us.

Well-being zone

Navigate to our well-being zone for a wide range of exercises to manage existing conditions. Our Managing Musculoskeletal guides and videos have been developed by our chartered physiotherapists to help those suffering from pain and limited mobility suffered from a recent musculoskeletal accident, injury or trauma. Designed to reduce pain, improve range of movement, and to recover from injury quickly and safely.

If you would like more information about how our services work or are interested in accessing this service please call 0113 229 1300 or email and someone will contact you directly.

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