New Zealanders love their DIY – fuelled no doubt by the huge range of home renovation shows on our small screen. From ‘The Block NZ’ to the brand new show ‘Our First Home’, there are DIY strategies to cover any taste and budget.
If saving money is one of your reasons for DIY though, tread carefully. Otherwise, you could end up shelling out those “savings” for hospital, doctor and physio appointments. Rohan Davies, physiotherapist and owner of Northside Sports Medicine nominates six key areas of injury for DIY enthusiasts to watch out for.
Caused by: extended time looking up!
Hanging curtain rails, painting ceilings and walls – it’s amazing how much time you can spend looking up when you’re DIYing.
“Similarly to people who start working in an office: if you’re used to working in an office or at a computer, your neck can stiffen up. So when renovating, if you suddenly spend extended periods of time looking up, then you can stress the neck and cause pain and injury,” said Mr Davies.
Caused by: poor lifting and repetitive bending
“Unless you lift weights on a regular basis, you are exposing yourself to injury by lifting heavy items like tiles, timber, or a full wheel barrow,” cautions Mr Davies. “Tradespeople and gardeners do these activities every week and are conditioned to the activity. The rest of us – not so much.”
Prolonged bending to tile or to paint skirting boards is also a source of stress for the back.
Caused by: repetitive overhead activity
Painting ceilings, anyone?
“Keeping your arm elevated overhead compromises the blood supply to the rotator cuff and also results in pinching of the soft-tissues between the upper arm and AC joint (where the collar bone joins to the shoulder blade),” explains Mr Davies. “Heavy lifting overhead or sudden traction on the arm (like when your buddy drops the other end of the beam you are carrying) can result in acute tearing of the muscles around the shoulder.”
Caused by: using hand tools, including power tools.
Just as you don’t have to be in contact with chickens to get chicken pox, or feel cold to catch one, you don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow.
“Tennis elbow is very common with DIY type activities,” says Mr Davies. “These activities account for far more cases of Tennis Elbow than actually playing tennis. Lots of gripping of hand tools and power tools results in pain on the outside of the elbow joint, which is commonly known as tennis elbow.”
Mr Davies went on to explain that pain on the inside joint of the elbow is known as Golfer’s Elbow. Pick your sport!
Caused by: messy worksites = trip hazards
Have you ever cursed your kids for leaving a bike or skateboard on the driveway? Then spare a thought for your workmates (and, for home renovation, your family) when it comes to your DIY activities. Sometime injuries can be caused by tripping over the work tools as opposed to using them!
“I have lost count of the number of knee and ankle injuries I have seen from people tripping over loose bits of timber, extension cords or just uneven ground,” says Mr Davies.
Multiple trauma and head injury
Caused by: falls from height
Some of the most serious injuries from DIY come from falls from a height, such as a ladder or scaffold – something that Molly Meldrum would be only too painfully aware of.
“Always make sure ladders and scaffolding are secure and you have someone watching out for you,” warns Mr Davies. “These falls can result in multiple trauma, spinal cord injuries and even death.”
How to avoid DIY injury
While it’s impossible to guarantee your safety at all times, the key to increasing your chances of avoiding injuries is patience and caution!
“The best way to avoid the worst injuries is to know your limitations,” says Mr Davies. “If you are not familiar with the tools, you are using take a course (many big hardware outlets have free weekend courses for DIYers), or use a professional (yes there is a reason your electrician charges as much as he does).”
Some other quick and easy tips include:
- Warm up well before hand so that your muscles are ready to go. I always recommend warming up for exercise – and DIY can be a form of extreme sport.
- Take your time and take regular breaks. We all like things to be completed yesterday, but the expression “more haste, less speed” often holds true. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll get it all done at the same pace as a professional.
- Carry smaller loads to take the pressure off your joints and muscles.
- Keep your workspace clean and tidy. Avoid those ankle and knee injuries!
And a final comment: “Expect to feel a few aches and pains the day after if you are not normally active,” says Mr Davies. “But if they persist, seek professional advice from a Physiotherapist or Doctor.”