I have three daughters, and I've moved them into college 12 times, so I'm a pro at move ins.
As a doctor, I make sure we're wearing the right clothing and have a plan so no one gets injured.
I recommend all parents stretch, hydrate, and get creative during college move in.
At this point in their lives, they have moved a lot. In fact, I've moved my girls into dorms and other forms of housing 12 times — 24 moves if you count move outs. I'm not done yet.
I share this because I'm proud of my girls and how they're building their lives. I think it's also a sign that in recent years, I've built up some serious college-move-in credentials.
As a dad, I've personally experienced what a physically demanding job a move in is, and I've seen over and over how many parents seem to underestimate it. As a pain-specialist doctor, I know the toll move-in days can take on your body.
So this back-to-school season, I want to offer some tips and tricks to all the adults out there moving grown kids into dorms, new apartments, or houses in hopes of minimizing your pain and injury.
First, you have to dress appropriately
Most of the moves I've done with my girls have been in the South and along the East Coast during August. Suffice it to say, it has been hot. Even if you're in a cooler part of the country, our kids often don't have air conditioning. Don't forget you'll be carrying heavy things and making dozens of trips from the car to their new place. You will be sweating.
Every time I moved my girls, I saw parents who clearly didn't think things through. Some wore flip-flops or shoes without much support, and you could see their ankles turn as they walked or carried something heavy. Others were overdressed and sweating profusely. I remember at one move, I saw a dad moving furniture by himself. His face was so red, and he was exerting so much; I honestly worried he might have a heart attack.
Wear light, loose clothing, and don't forget to wear sneakers with the support you need.
When you get to campus or the apartment, don't immediately start unpacking; develop a plan
Before you start unpacking that car or truck, I recommend taking a few minutes to assess all challenges and abilities.
The biggest obstacle will be staircases. Instead of carrying things up and down on your own, come up with a plan where you can position people at different spots to pass items. Take note of landings because they will be a lifesaver when you start unpacking.
You should also be asking yourself these important questions: How far away will I have to park? Who will help carry the heaviest things? What moving equipment could be helpful?
Plan all that to make sure you're looking out for your physical health.
Don't forget to stretch and drink a lot of fluids
College move in can be an extremely emotional time — I should know. But most people don't even think about how physically demanding it will be.
Everyone's in a hurry on move-in day, but you need to take some time to stretch your legs, Achilles tendon, upper back, and more.
Stop a few times during the day to touch your toes, roll your shoulders, and gently twist at the waist. Your back and body will feel much better the next day.
And make sure to take a lot of water with you to stay hydrated. There aren't always convenient places to buy it or refill a bottle.
Remember: College move ins are not a solo sport
Often, one adult starts decorating, and another is more of the workhorse mover. But my best piece of advice as a doctor trying to protect your back, ankles, and knees is not to let one person move everything alone.
There have been times I've moved my girls in early for sports or activities and there just aren't that many people around to help. Those moves were always the hardest. The best and easiest moves have been when they have friends around to help make trips to the car. Other times, several families arrived at once, and we worked together on the big, heavy items.
If you don't have people to help you, bring a dolly or use wheelie bins. There's nothing to be gained by pretending you don't need that help. You do.
Don't be afraid to get creative to minimize the toll on your body
My favorite trick comes from one of my girls. She showed me how much easier it was to move clothing items on hangers — rather than loading them into a heavy and unwieldy box. Just cover the hangers and clothes with a trash bag. This makes clothing lighter to carry and easier to transport. Plus, you can hang them up quickly when you get there.
Also, you should skip large boxes; they're too hard on your back. At this point, my family primarily uses small boxes. If we use a midsize one, it's for only really light items such as pillows and bedding.
Get creative with your packing to ensure the move is easy. Your body will thank you later.
Dr. Thomas Nguyen is a pain specialist at Virginia Spine Institute in Reston, Virginia. Learn more at SpineMD.com.
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