Homeowners will soon be removing decorations from attics and basements, putting up trees and stringing lights on their homes. However, with all of this activity can come a dark side; the careless handling of holiday decor can cause serious, painful back injuries. It would be a shame if you spent this holiday season in pain or incapacitated; that's why you need to learn how to properly handle your decorative items to avoid hurting your back:
How to remove and transport decorations
The first opportunity for you to handle your decorations is when you remove them from storage. If you are like most people, your decorations are probably stored in rarely accessed areas such as an attic, basement, shed, or remote closet in your home. The unfamiliarity of your working space can be a source of danger for you, and could lead to to missteps or falls. In addition, removing decorations from a location that is cramped, dark or awkward is a prime opportunity for a back injury-causing accident. Here are a few tips to help you remove and transport your decorations safely:
- Light the area sufficiently - darkness is an enemy of safety; many people have been hurt while working in dim and dark places. Unexpected steps up or down can cause you to wrench your back or twist your spine. If you have your decorations stored in an area that isn't lighted well, then you should utilize portable lighting to help you while you work. Clamp-on spotlights are very inexpensive, and they can be positioned just about anywhere you need them. In addition, you might consider wearing a head-mounted spotlight that can be conveniently aimed where needed. For a long term solution, make it a priority to add lighting to your attic or other poorly illuminated spaces before the next holiday season rolls around.
- Wear appropriate back support - back braces, bands and belts can help your back muscles be more resilient to lifting and moving injuries. However, always remember that an appropriate back support device is to augment good practices, not replace them. Ask your chiropractor for assistance in selecting a back support device that is appropriate for you and your task.
- Practice proper lifting techniques - lifting heavy objects properly is simple, but it is easy to rush through a task and not use good procedure. Proper lifting can protect your back from injury and pain; here is a brief guide to proper lifting:
1. Establish a wide base of support by spreading your legs apart.
2. Bend your knees and hips and drop to a squatting position.
3. Keep your eyes and head facing forward, and grasp the object to be lifted.
4. Raise up, using your knees and hips for strength.
How to set up your decorations
Once you have moved your holiday decorations to their proper locations, the next step is to set them up safely. Here are a few guidelines for decorating that will help you protect your back:
- Avoid reaching above your head - holiday decorations are often placed in high, nearly inaccessible locations, but reaching above your head can cause strain in your back. To avoid this situation, use a ladder or step stool to keep any work at chest or eye level.
- Be on the alert for trip hazards - lights and garland can pose a tripping hazard. A sudden stumble might result in a back injury such as pulled or torn muscle. Keep your cords, light strands, and garland wrapped up in neat coils or around a spool. Be careful when wrapping lights around a tree that you don't accidentally tangle your feet.
- Get assistance when putting up your tree - trees are awkward to assemble and erect. If you are putting up a tree, ask for help as you work. Never reach out far with a tree topper or top piece, as that motion can cause you to injure your back. Move your ladder or stool closer to the tree so you easily handle decorations. When erecting a live tree, push it up from underneath; do not pull it up from the back side. Your back is more prone to injury when you make pulling motions, especially in an effort to lift heavy objects.