As a house cleaner and owner of a cleaning service, I know how taxing house cleaning can be on your body, especially when you start cleaning as a profession. Your back, neck, knees, shoulders, and other muscles and areas will likely be tired, stiff, and sore. To combat this, doing stretches for a short time every morning can prepare your body for the day.
As you start cleaning regularly, if you still experience pain or stiffness in an area of your body, you will need to take action to resolve it. If you don’t, you might not be able to clean anymore or permanently disable or damage that area.
In this post, I want to explain what caused my upper body pain and cover four stretches for my upper body I do every morning. The good thing about these exercises is that they do not take long, you won’t need any equipment, and you can do this at home. All you need is a doorway and a spot on the floor to stretch on.
Causes of My Upper Body Pain
During the first full year of my cleaning business, I bit off more than I could chew and ended up with lots of cleanings. I was driving and cleaning all over the Nashville area.
Everywhere I went, I had a tote full of cleaning supplies I was carrying long distances in parking lots, up and down stairs, through small doorways, and in and out of elevators.
Along with carrying the tote, I did the usual cleaning, including crouching and reaching into cramped small areas, vacuuming, and mopping. Soon, I started having a lot of stiffness and pain in my neck, upper back, and shoulders.
I ignored the pain for a while, but eventually, I went to a chiropractor and also ended up in physical therapy.
How to Fix Your Upper Back, Shoulders, and Neck Pain
My chiropractor and physical therapist told me that I had very tight pectorals (chest muscles), causing my shoulders, neck, and upper back muscles to pull forward. Part of the reason I had such tight pectoral muscles was because my arms were out in front of me so much due to all the cleaning.
This made my chest tighter, causing my neck muscles to pull forward and down and causing pain in my neck, shoulder, and upper back. Carrying the tote all around didn’t help, either.
The other reason I had tight pectoral muscles was that I had never stretched them in my life. I didn’t know that you could stretch them or how to. I was amazed when I found out that tight chest muscles could cause so many issues to the rest of my upper body.
How to Stretch Your Upper Body
To fix my tight chest muscles, I needed to stretch my chest muscles back in the opposite way. To do that, both my chiropractor and physical therapist recommended these stretches for me below.
3 sets for 30 – 45 seconds.
Find an open doorway.
- Put both arms out to your side, then bend your arms up at the elbows (90-degree angles).
- Step forward into the doorway with your forearms against the door jamb.
- Stretch both sides of your chest (right and left pectorals) and hold for 30-45 seconds.
Stretches for Pec Minor (outside area of the chest)
Do one set for both left and right pec minor.
- Stabilize your shoulder against something sturdy like a door jamb.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Slide your arm up the wall outside of the door jamb to rotate your shoulder blade up. Hold for 30-45 seconds.
Stretches for Pec Major (front area of the chest)
Do one set for both left and right pec major.
- Find something sturdy like a door jamb.
- Position your arms and bend them up at the elbows against the door jam (90-degree angles).
- Lean forward through the door and retract the shoulder blade.
- Look away and down to stretch more of the pec major.
- Hold for 30-45 seconds.
The chest stretches took a while to start loosening up my chest muscles, shoulders, and neck, but they eventually loosened up. I still do these stretches every day to keep them loosened.
Stretches for Upper and Mid-Back
The upper and middle section of the back is called the thoracic spine. My thoracic spine was in pain, often tight and stiff, especially in the morning. This was likely due to carrying the large tote full of cleaning supplies, vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning.
I was also having anxiety. Since I was on a tight cleaning schedule and running all over town, I developed a lot of tension in my neck and trapezoid muscles.
If you have experienced a tremendous amount of stress or anxiety, you may have noticed that your upper back muscles, neck, and shoulders may become extremely tight. That’s because stress accumulates in those areas of your body, causing tension, tightness, and even headaches.
To help with the upper body problems I was experiencing, I started doing the stretch below.
Rolling Crucifix (Mid-thoracic spine extension)
1 set of 5 for the left side and one set of 5 for the right side.
- Lay down on your stomach and chest (front of your body) with both arms going out above your head at a 45-degree angle.
- Rotate your body and arms from left to right. This will open, extend, and stretch your chest.
- Let your legs follow with your body leaving them in an upside-down V shape.
- Stretch for five seconds, then rotate to the opposite side.
- Follow steps 1-4 for the opposite side.
I highly recommend this stretch. This stretch helps release the tightness and tension in the thoracic spine. But it is also very effective for releasing tightness in the chest, front of my shoulders all the way down to my lower back. And it was even effective for stretching my hips.
Cleaning is a physical job, and whether you’re doing it full-time, part-time, or every once in a while, I highly suggest you do some stretching before you do it. I do these stretches one to two times (in the morning and night) a day, even if I’m not cleaning. They have helped loosen my upper body and reduce pain.
I know everyone has a busy day, and the last thing you are thinking about is stretching, but these stretches should only take 10 minutes or less in the beginning. Once you get the hang of doing them, they should take around five minutes.
Learn from me that just five minutes a day can prevent an injury and help your body weather the physical stress of cleaning.