General DIY Tips
If DIY isn't carried out properly, it could lead to muscle strain, sprain, back spasms
and other injuries. Take extra care when lifting heavy weights. The golden rule to
tackling DIY is preparation.
- prevention is better than cure - general fitness is key to tackling tough jobs around
- 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 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
- call a professional where necessary
- eliminate hazards which could lead to tripping, slipping and falls - such as loose
carpets and wires
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 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
- 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
- when working with boxes and cases, these should be on a high surface or table not
on the floor
- bend knees, keep the back straight and keep the item close to you when lifting or
putting on the floor
- don't lift above the waist or shoulder as this could lead to overstraining
- carry manageable and balanced loads
- pack heavy items in a small box and mark heavy
- avoid moving heavy furniture on your own - get a friend to help
- bend knees and push items rather than pull
- use a non-friction surface under the item to assist in movement
Add variety and breaks
Where possible, add variety to DIY. 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
- rest intermittently as repeated movements could lead to repetitive strain injury
if carried out for a long time
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
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
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
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.
- Avoid twisting and bending
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.
- If possible, use extension poles to reach further without straining and compromising
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:
- R est
- I ce 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
- C ompression - ensure the injured area is compressed but not too tight
- E levation - keep the injured part elevated
If you injure yourself carrying out a DIY activity, it's best to seek advice from
a chartered physiotherapist or your GP.
For further tips on how to carry out DIY safely, chartered physiotherapists can provide
valuable advice that can help ensure the experience of making home improvements remains
a good one.
Physiotherapy, the professional body representing physiotherapists, circulates guidelines
based on research to all its members.
Publication courtesy of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, please see the CSP
website for further information.