Is part of your job lifting heavy objects, being cramped in small crawl spaces or standing on ladders stretching to reach that last missed spot? The tradie life involves a significant amount of body movement, strength and flexibility (we don’t know how you sparky’s fit in those manholes!) but post-work recovery is often left undiscussed by the trade community.
With August being Tradies National Health month there’s no better time to start talking about the importance of looking after a tradie’s best tool: their body.
The trade community makes up 30% of Australia’s working population, with sore backs and aching joints a very normalised part of daily tradie life. Since a tradie requires a working body and mind for the success of a job, it’s no wonder that pushing it to the limit is the norm. This kind of mental and physical stress can catch up to you in the long run, potentially leading to workplace injuries such as:
- Low back pain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Elbow pain
- Knee pain
- Ankle sprain
When it comes to manual labour, it’s important to make sure health and wellbeing is your top priority, as injury can mean time away from working, extended recovery periods, and potential permanent injury.
Luckily, all of these common injuries and areas of pain can be prevented by utilising the right tools and techniques to ensure proper post-work recovery. Daily self-care is imperative for all kinds of trades, and ensures that the body is able to recuperate enough for another day on the grind!
We’ve compiled a list of the best ways for the body to recover after a day of manual labour, with advice from professional massage therapists Vicky Harper and Erika Hona.
Best post-work recovery tips:
1. Keep in line with government advice
Although government advice seems like a no-brainer, it’s surprising how often you can forget to follow it. Of course, there’s the rule of bending your knees and keeping a straight back before any heavy lifting that’s always repeated to you before starting a new job. And remembering to wear appropriate PPE gear may seem like advice only for apprentices, however, protecting your eyes, ears, head and feet not only prevents on-site injury, but also protects from long-term bodily damage such as tinnitus.
2. Post-work stretching
According to both Erika and Vicky, post-work stretching is their best recovery advice. Even if five minutes after work is all you can manage, stretching has the most effect on how the body recovers after a long day of movement. As Erika advises, “Even 5 minutes can make a difference, with holding the stretches for at least 20 seconds and stomach breathing to get maximum benefit.”
Vicky recommends stretching out joints and areas most affected, with the “neck, shoulders, back, hips and knees” most often needing the most attention. Their best recommendation? Head to Youtube for a free 10 minute yoga or pilates stretches to release full-body tension.
3. Use recovery tools
Recovery tools may sometimes seem like a gimmick, especially when the usual advertising route for these tools is an infomercial. However, using tools like rollers, massage guns or even just a simple epsom salt bath in the afternoon can be helpful in the recovery process. Erika loves using a massage gun in her own daily recovery routine, and suggests using rollers for maximum muscle relief.
4. Establish a daily routine
Setting up a daily work routine to follow can help your body in the long run. Stretching before and after work every day ensures consistency for the body and helps speed up the recovery process. Erika and Vicky both advise to stretch before you begin working, with recommended “basic major muscle stretches such as: downward dog for hammies and shoulders,side lying twists for your lower back and standing up stretches for your arms and neck.”
In addition to stretching, making sure you keep up incidental exercise, such as walking up and down stairs or even walking to and from work, will keep your muscles moving and avoid possible cramping. Applying sunscreen before your work day begins, and reapplying during breaks is another great way to protect the body from future damage.
5. Fuel your body
Your body needs to be fueled properly before any physical activity, so having protein in the morning (who doesn’t love eggs on toast for breaky?) is the perfect way to ensure you’ve got enough energy to take on the day ahead. Taking regular breaks, especially for lunch, is important for refuelling the body and making sure your energy levels are stable and consistent. Finally, taking vitamins such as magnesium and B-12 can help both muscle recovery and boost your energy further than nutrients from food.
6. Visit healthcare professionals
If you do get injured or those aches and pains don’t seem to heal themselves, visiting a healthcare professional is the next best thing. Understandably, there is sometimes a feeling that you must be tough in the trade community, but treating an injury is always a good idea. Booking an appointment with your doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist may be the right course of action when that niggling backache doesn’t go away after a couple of days of recovery.
7. Get a massage
Finally, getting a massage on a regular basis is important for both body recovery and relaxation. While massage can definitely be seen as a ‘treat yourself’ activity, this kind of body therapy is just as important as a post-work stretch. For tradies, daily joint pain and muscle tension can easily be relieved and remedied by a massage. Massage professionals Erika and Vicky both recommend getting a massage on a regular basis, with either weekly or monthly appointments if you’re a full-time tradie. Remedial, sport or deep tissue massage are the most beneficial for quick muscle recovery and pain relief, but other massage types, such as lymphatic drainage or reflexology may help individuals that have specific areas of concern (reflexology does wonders for those that suffer from sciatica!).