I research and write about musculoskeletal pain and injuries several times a year, so you’d think I’d know how to avoid pain related to overuse, both on and off the job. As someone who could not stand up straight this morning, I obviously do not take my own advice.

I’m not exactly a weekend warrior. I don’t go out on Saturdays and play flag football or broom hockey. Like many people, I’m active in the summer – gardening, walking, hiking, swimming – and much less so in the winter.

Inspired by a New Year’s marathon of Extreme Hoarders episodes, I decided to organize the attic. When we first moved in, the attic probably was the best-organized space in the house. Over the past 10 years, that organized has de-evolved to walking a box or bag up to the top of the stairs, putting it down, and shoving it back as far as it will go.

This year, we reached the point where things couldn’t be shoved back any farther, so we began stacking boxes to the point of them becoming a falling hazard. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to organize the attic and the basement (where the discarded furniture of the household goes to die). Since all the Christmas decorations have to go back up to the attic, I decided to start there.

The biggest issue with the attic is that even though it’s a walk-up, it’s not finished. There is a space of about 100 square feet (out of probably 500 square feet total) where you can stand upright. The rest of the space features eaves that quickly slope to the floor.

Organizing the attic means spending most of the time hunched over or hunkered down. It also means carrying boxes and bags down to the second floor to be sorted into “keep,” “donate” and “toss” piles. The “keep” piles go back to the attic, while the “donate” and “toss” piles go down to the first floor or out to the garage. All of it involves multiple trips up and down the steep attic stairs while carrying 25-50 pound boxes and bins, some of which then go down another set of stairs to the first floor.

I spent seven hours in the attic yesterday, and even a hot shower and a dose of naproxen sodium appears to have done little to help with my aching muscles. So let me give you the advice I should have taken myself:

  • Know your safe lifting limits.
  • Lift with your legs and not your back or upper body.
  • Hold boxes close to the body. You want to keep the weight as close to you as possible.
  • Take breaks and drink water.
  • After a hiatus from physical activity or exercise, start back slowly and make sure you warm up first.
  • Don’t allow your attic to become a disorganized mess.




Oh, My Aching Back!!
EHS Today