The Therapist Is In...The ouch (and ew!) of stinkbugs

The Therapist Is In...
The ouch (and ew!) of stinkbugs
by Shannon Murphy, MPT

As winter fades, April showers & May flowers aren't the only things that mark the return of warmer weather. Unfortunately, a number of hibernating pests also start to thaw. As anyone in this area can tell you, the brown marmorated stinkbug has worn out its welcome over the past few years. And while scientists are starting to finally study the biology of this nuisance bug, it will be a while before we see any chance of really controlling the epidemic. However, the greatest aggravation of stinkbugs may not be their erratic flight patterns or their distinctive stench. It may be the aches and pains you develop in trying to get rid of them! No joke - the number of people seeking medical care for neck, back & shoulder problems triggered by trying to manage stinkbug infestations has become its own mini-epidemic.
So, how do stinkbugs lead to injury? The main reason is their sheer number. As anyone living in an older, landscaped, sun-facing home can tell you... managing an infestation is like bailing water from a sinking ship. And yet, most of us refuse to be beaten by such a random and clueless adversary. So we run around the house with vacuum cleaners, fly swatters, soap jars and miscellaneous defenses in an effort to reclaim our homes and sanity. The problem is that the whole production leads to awkward posture and muscular overuse - which is a perfect formula for injury. The most common troubles include:
* Stiffness and "cricks" in the neck, upper back and shoulders
* Burning and stabbing sensations in neck & shoulder blade muscles
* Headaches
* Vertigo / Dizziness
* Rotator cuff tendonitis & tears
* Disc problems & pinched nerves causing pain & weakness in the arms
How can you avoid these problems? Short of moving to a new home (which might not help for long since the bugs are making their way across the nation!), a mix of prevention, ergonomics, fitness and body mechanics is your best formula for stinkbug resilience.
* Prevention - while pest management services cannot eradicate the bugs (and most companies are upfront about their limitations), investing the money in a regular service plan can make a big dent in the scale of the problem. Finding a contractor to help seal windows and crevices is also ideal. Both can save you money and possibly serious medical problems associated with the "do-it-yourself" approach to pesticide application. While there are natural-based & safer compounds on the market, the reality is that a variety of commercial-grade chemicals are locally available to people who are both unqualified, and overeager, to use them.
* Ergonomics - what is your tool of choice? If you are a vacuum person, lugging around a heavy canister around with a short & easily clogged hose is a sure recipe for pain and frustration. Consider a backpack style with long reaching wand that can easily dissemble for cleaning. If you are a soap-jar-to-the-ceiling person, make sure you use a jar that fits easily in your hand and a portable stepladder that is tall enough to permit easy reaching. Look for coupons and invest in the right equipment!
* Fitness - most of the injuries listed above have an underlying, chronic component that gets triggered by excessive stress. Maintaining normal weight, flexibility and strength helps buffer you against injury with strenuous tasks. Drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoke also keeps your tissues young and resilient.
* Body Mechanics - the way in which you perform a task plays a big role in the amount of strain it imparts on your body. Avoid looking and reaching straight up for more than 20-30 seconds at a time; take breaks and stretch in the opposite direction frequently (e.g. look down, let arms hang and take a few deep breaths). Also stagger your feet front-to-back and rock your body weight forward to reach -- this extends your range and decreases over-arching in the spine. Keep your belly muscles tight (without holding your breath) and your shoulder blades down - if you feel like your neck is in your ears, stop and stretch.
If all the above fails and the aches and pains still set in - get treatment early. Physical therapy can help get you back on track and avoid more serious complications with discs and tendons when issues are nipped in the bud. In the meantime, here's hoping for a magic bullet against the Invasion of Stink.

This series of columns are by Shannon Murphy, MPT, Owner/Director of BodySense PT. 9 Saint Paul St, 3rd Floor, Boonsboro, MD 21713. 301-432-8585 phone, 301-432-1987 fax, smurphy@bodysensept.com.