How to avoid 'bucket back' in the water crisis
Even if you are a glass half-full person‚ one of the tricks to coping with Cape Town’s water crisis is to keep your bucket half-empty.
Unless you are used to lifting weight‚ the risk of back injury is high with full buckets.
Physiotherapists across Cape Town say they are treating patients who have hurt their backs lifting and carrying buckets and other containers of grey water around the house.
Cheryl Moolman‚ who works mostly with back problems‚ has seen numerous patients in Constantia who have pain from lifting and carrying bigger loads than they are accustomed to.
“They are saving every drop and carrying grey water from their showers and washing machines to the toilets. Mostly they are from the older generation‚ some live alone and some have joint issues or have had spinal surgery‚” she said.
“They are extremely committed to water saving even if it may put them at risk of back strain. I’m telling them to make their bucket loads small‚ do more trips‚ and be aware of their position when lifting.”
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Sports physio Mark Seuring‚ who works in Green Point‚ said he had treated a few patients of different ages with back spasms and even acute injuries from lifting water.
“They are lifting buckets and feel a sudden pain. I’ve had a patient with acute disc pain but none of them have ruptured a disc‚” he said.
“Often they are lifting and bending in a confined space‚ not able to use proper lifting techniques to protect their backs.
“They feel it is more efficient to wait for a full bucket to pick it up‚ but it is more manageable when it is half full.”
Lenette Maritz‚ a physiotherapist who works at Cape Gate Mediclinic in Brackenfell‚ said she had seen several patients with back strain related to water saving.
“They come in with mostly mechanical back pain from lifting heavy objects. They must only lift as much as they can comfortably do‚” she said.
The physical strain patients have suffered runs alongside the emotional stress they are feeling about the countdown to Day Zero‚ said Moolman.
“They are very involved in doing everything possible to save water‚ and feel stressed about the situation and that not everybody is on board‚” she said.
TIPS TO AVOID BUCKET BACK
• Position: If possible‚ hold the bucket in front of you and as close to your body as possible
• Movement: Take a wide stance‚ bend your knees‚ tighten your stomach muscles and keep your back straight when lifting
• Do not lean forward or twist while lifting
• Try to limit repetitions of the movement at one time
• Limit the weight to what is comfortable and rather do more trips
• Be more cautious and be aware of any problems in your back
Sources: Cheryl Moolman and Mark Seuring