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Beware: Simple Household Chores Can Cause Injuries

From cooking and vacuuming to using power tools and painting, you’re constantly on the move at home. Unfortunately, tackling household chores can sometimes cause injuries or trigger flare-ups of existing health issues. Many common tasks — including yardwork — often involve repetitive motions that can lead to nerve and tendon pain, causing short- and long-term injuries.

Risks of Common Household Chores

  • Cooking: In the kitchen, you can get cuts from sharp knives, burns from hot liquids or fractures from slamming kitchen drawers.

  • Using power tools: From cut hands to severed fingers, accidents from using power tools such as saws and lawnmowers can result in a trip to the ER.

  • Cleaning: When you’re vacuuming, mopping or cleaning ceiling fans, you’re repeating the same motions. This can cause repetitive-motion injuries with symptoms such as tingling, numbness, muscle pain and joint pain.

  • Yardwork: Raking leaves, clipping hedges, weeding, cutting tree branches — all these require repetitive motions, which can strain neck, arms, shoulders and back muscles along with irritating tendons and ligaments. Infection is a risk, too. If you’re pricked by a thorn or scratched by a branch, these seemingly simple wounds can be direct portals for infection from a fungus or bacteria that can cause bigger issues.

  • Home projects: When you’re painting, you’re engaged in repeated motions — sometimes overhead — which can exacerbate rotator cuff issues. When hammering or turning a screwdriver, you’re repeatedly extending, flexing and twisting your wrists, which can worsen wrist, forearm and elbow issues such as “golfer’s elbow” or “tennis elbow.”

  • Using step stools and ladders: For hard-to-reach areas, you might use a step stool or ladder. But these can be dangerous, especially if you lose your balance and fall on an outstretched hand, causing wrist or forearm fractures.

When household tasks require repetitive movement, longer-term issues can arise. Examples of these include:

  •  Tendinitis

  • Rotator cuff pain

  • Trigger finger (one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position)

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Tennis elbow (inflammation around the outside the elbow and forearm)

  • Golfer’s elbow (inflammation on the inner side of the arm and elbow)

Tips To Avoid Injuries

Many injuries can be prevented by taking simple precautions:

  • Learn safe cutting techniques. Keep knife blades sharp. Dull blades can cause sudden movements that lead to injury. When you’re using a sharp knife, protect your other hand by curling your fingers when you hold the vegetable or fruit and only exposing your knuckles to the knife. Always cut away from you and never use your palm as the cutting board. This is how many injuries occur while cutting avocados.

  • Keep everyday items within reach. Store items you use frequently on lower shelves to prevent falls instead of using a step stool to reach up high. If you need to use a step stool or ladder to reach for something or to clean a high spot, ask someone to hold the ladder while in use.

  • Wear gloves. Keep your hands, fingers and wrists safe from cuts by opting to wear gloves when doing yardwork. They can protect against scratches and punctures, which will prevent infections.

  • Unplug power tools and appliances. If your lawnmower jams or weed whacker gets tangled, disable the power before attempting to fix it, and never disable any safety guards. Many saws and power tools come with protective shields to operate them safely. Don’t remove them.

  • Limit alcohol and certain medications. Relax with a cold beverage after the work is complete and the tools are put away. If you’re working with sharp blades or power tools, avoid anything that makes you drowsy or impairs judgment.

  • Work with good lighting. Make sure your workspace is well-lit so you can see clearly.

  • Have a safety buddy. This is especially important when you’re using a step stool or ladder.

  • Take breaks and rotate between activities. If you're going to be reaching above your head repeatedly or doing any repetitive motion that causes soreness, do it for five to 10 minutes at a time. Take a break, then come back to it.

Rest and Recover

If you cut yourself, wash out the wound with soap and water and hold pressure to stop the bleeding. If bleeding does not stop within 15 minutes, or if you have any numbness, tingling or inability to move your fingers, go to the ER immediately.

It’s important to see a doctor for possible carpal tunnel syndrome if you’re experiencing severe numbness or tingling. This might be fixed with injections, splints or surgery. The same goes for trigger finger — if your fingers are popping or locking, see your doctor immediately.

For minor aches and pains, such as inflamed tendons, rest for two or three days and use the RICE technique (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). If you still have continued pain after about a week, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.


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