After what seemed like a terribly long winter, many of us wasted no time heading outside to fix up the yard and soak up some sun, once warmer weather finally hit. While it certainly feels good to be doing projects outdoors, it’s important to remember how to do these tasks properly, so your body doesn’t pay for it later. How many times have you overexerted yourself doing yard work, only to wake up the next day with back pain and sore muscles?
As a physical therapist and expert in body mechanics, I see many patients come in with sprains and back pain, due to overextending themselves while doing outdoor activities. In an effort to eliminate some of that pain, I put together a list of simple tips to help you avoid injury this season.
While doing active tasks such as gardening and yard work, you’ll want to remember to stretch and maintain a healthy body position.
- Avoid strain on your hands by periodically spreading your fingers wide, then make a fist. Repeat.
- Reduce stress on your wrists by rotating them in one direction, then repeat in the opposite direction.
- Use a stool or knee pads to protect your knees and hips.
- Avoid putting constant stress one part of the body by varying tasks: Rake for a while, then bag for a while.
- When lifting, keep objects close to your body, keep a straight spine, and lift with your legs, not your back.
After the work is done, you’ll want to stop to relax. But keep these tips in mind:
- Lawn chairs can be hard on your back, so get up and walk around every thirty minutes.
- Find a chair that supports your back and fits your size. Avoid staying in one position for more than twenty minutes.
Summer is a great time to be active, but always remember, if you begin to experience discomfort in a muscle or joint, stop and rest. If you are experiencing persistent pain, a physical therapist could often help to relieve pain and educate you on proper body mechanics to avoid injury in the future.
Gina Otterbein and Janis Kemper are licensed Physical Therapists and Co-Owners of Northern Physical Therapy. Northern Physical Therapy has five west Michigan locations, with therapists specializing in women’s health, fitness, and back & neck pain. More information can be found at www.northernpts.com.