Spring is finally here and that means it’s time to start working on the yard. At this time of year, we see a lot of patients with shoulder, neck, back and lower back pain often related to gardening or yard work. You can help avoid injury from yard work if you follow these simple tips.
- First and foremost, before you even begin the work, make a plan of what needs done and how long you expect it take. This is important to be able to insert rest breaks where you stop the activity entirely, or at least change over to another task that puts your body in a different position that uses different muscles. Along those same lines, doing a quick inventory of your tools and supplies to fix or replace any that aren’t working properly. This will prevent temptation to use malfunctioning tools when you are knee deep in a project that will require excessive work and strain on your body instead of letting the tool take the brunt.
- Speaking of taking breaks, it is important to remember that while yard work can be great exercise, it can be harmful if you’re not used to using your muscles in this way it’s a good idea to give yourself a chance to recover throughout the day. Stretching muscles ahead of and after the work will ensure better mobility, as will hydrating throughout the day. We always educate our patients to be drinking approximately half their body weight in ounces for healthy lubrication of joints and hydration of soft tissues.
- When lifting heavy objects take a wide stance, keep your back straight, and squat down and push through your heels as you become upright. This will ensure that you use the strongest muscles in your body: the gluten and hamstrings. When carrying heavy objects hold them close to your body. This will reduce the risk of injury to your neck or back.
- When planting flower pots place the pot on a table to avoid bending and leaning. Know your limitations. Don’t try and get everything done in one day. Split up the work over two or three days.
- Vary your activity. If you’re raking leaves switch to working on the flower pots while standing at a table. Likewise, if you’re carrying bags of soil or grass seed switch to working on the flowerbeds while kneeling on a cushion or folded towel. Give your body a chance to adapt and recover.
- You will automatically grab your rake or shovel with your dominant hand, but make sure you swap to the other hand every so often to avoid a strain, joint stress, or pain.
If you do injure yourself or are in pain after working in the yard apply an ice pack to the area for 20 minutes, followed by removing it for 20 minutes, followed by applying it again for 20 minutes. You will then take the next hour off and repeat that cycle several times over. If the pain does not go away, you might have done something a little more serious so give us a call and Emily or Maggie will book you an appointment.