Did you know that each year a quarter of a million people become seriously injured as a result of DIY mishaps – 100,000 of these injuries are serious enough to lead to a visit to the casualty department? Here are some tips on how to avoid injuring yourself.
General DIY Tips
Like all physical (and possibly repetitive) activities if DIY isn’t carried out properly, it could lead to muscle strain, sprain, back spasms and other injuries. The golden rule to tackling DIY is preparation especially when lifting heavy weights.
Prevention is better than cure – general fitness is key to tackling tough jobs around the house. So do not embark in big projects if you are ill or in reduced health.
Know your limits – if you haven’t done heavy tasks for a while then there is a good chance you may injure yourself if you don’t take care
If you have an injury or want advice on how to prepare for DIY and home or garden improvements, consult a chartered physiotherapist
Set out in detail what tasks need completion; big jobs may lead to tiredness – so don’t overdo it!
- keep children away when carrying out work
- eliminate hazards which could lead to tripping, slipping and falls – such as loose carpets and wires and misplaced tools
- call a professional where necessary (it might be cheaper)
Leave enough time for jobs
Don’t rush to finish; try and spread tasks over a few days
Pace yourself and work in manageable chunks
Wear comfortable clothing
Make sure you can move around easily
Keep knees covered and possibly knee pads if carrying out jobs that require kneeling
Wear sturdy shoes to protect and support feet
Wear sun block and a hat if working outdoors in the sun
Use comfortable tools
Use lightweight, long-handled tools – preferably with interchangeable heads, which can reduce the need to bend over
Check you can cope with the length and weight of power tools
Use lightweight wheelbarrows; avoid bending and overloading to prevent straining your back when moving load around
Use a kneeling pad when kneeling on hard surfaces to avoid sore knees
Use extension poles for rollers to reach further without straining and compromising safety
Pack away all tools as those left out could cause serious injuries. Store away tools and equipment so that they are easily retrieved.
DIY best practice
Carry out simple stretches to prepare muscles for DIY work especially for your hands, forearms, shoulders and neck You might consider some hip rolls, slow squats and stretching of the thighs and calf if you think you need to squat, kneel or bend over a lot.
Avoid moving heavy furniture on your own – get a friend to help
Bend knees, pull in your tummy and push items rather than pull
Use a non-friction surface under the item to assist in movement
Place boxes and cases on a high surface or table if you will have to move them later, not on the floor
Bend knees keep the back straight and pull your tummy in while keeping the item close to you when lifting or putting on the floor
Don’t lift above the waist or shoulder if you are not used to lift and carrying weights as this could lead to overstraining especially of the lower back
Carry manageable and balanced loads
Pack heavy items in a small box and mark heavy
Add variety and breaks
Add variety to your DIY where possible. Get up and walk around between tasks (every 10-20 minutes). This helps restore blood flow and prevents cramping. Also:
- switch jobs every 10-20 minutes so that you can use different muscles
- be ambidextrous – change sides so that both can be exercised in equal amounts
- Regularly arch your back backwards with your hands supporting the small of your back
- rest intermittently as repeated movements could lead to repetitive strain injury if carried out for a long time, like tennis elbow or shoulder tendonitis. Add some stretching of the working arm or leg if they start to become tired
Carry out cool down exercises after DIY tasks. Upon completion of DIY, muscles are still likely to be warm and flexible – stretching is an excellent way to avoid stiffness .Go for a walk or swim to help ward off muscle soreness.
When carrying out DIY, there are four main positions that need careful consideration in terms of deciding which posture is best to adopt – low lying, kneeling, standing and reaching.
Chartered physiotherapists recommend adopting a comfortable posture in whatever task is being carried out so that unnecessary muscle strain to any particular area of the body can be avoided. Here are some facts about the main DIY positions we may adopt.
Lying on the ground on either side, on your back or front to tackle tasks at floor level, such as fixing leaky pipes, unblocking sinks, working with fuses and wiring, working in low level roofs, etc.
- Plan your DIY work and anticipate how long you are going to be in a specific position. You may need to take short breaks during the task to help reduce the likelihood of injury
Kneeling on the floor on soft or hard surfaces for tasks at waist level.
- Avoid bending too far forward as this could strain the back
- Get up regularly to avoid cramping and to restore circulation
Standing up for tasks at chest or head level.
- Make sure you are standing on both feet and have a good stand. Avoid twisting and bending to reach your work tools
Standing up for tasks that are high up which may require stretching out arm(s) in order to reach.
- Use a ladder to help access hard to reach places. Keep upright on ladders and make sure it is secure when being used
- Avoid lifting the shoulders towards your ears when reaching out
- If possible, use extension poles to reach further without straining and compromising safety
Treating DIY injuries
If you aware of the onset of a strain or sprain, the first line of treatment in general, for the first 24-36 hours is to apply the RICE principle:
- Ice the area ideally for ten minutes every half hour – wrap a bag of frozen peas in a damp cloth to minimise the possibility of an ice burn
- Compression – ensure the injured area is compressed but not too tight
- Elevation – keep the injured part elevated. For the lower limbs a cushion under the mattress would help.
If you injure yourself carrying out a DIY activity, it’s best to seek advice from a chartered physiotherapist or your GP, especially if there is no improvement after 2-3 days. Our swissphysio team of chartered physiotherapists can provide valuable advice that can help ensure the experience of making home improvements remains a good one.
Just call us on 0191 296 0567 or email us via this form.