We want to provide a few health and safety tips on how to prevent back injuries this spring and summer. Believe it or not there are a few factors that can lead to extreme back injury, even before you pick up a rake. These are:
- Prior injury to your back
- Improper posture
- Genetic predisposition
Here are some things you can do to prevent or reduce back injuries while in the yard.
- Always use the proper tools. Using a hand trowel to dig a hole for a tree will increase your chance of a back or wrist injury. Choose tools with larger, padded or curved handles that are less strenuous to use over long periods of time. Look for protective gloves that have a nonslip surface for grip and to help prevent blisters.
- Warm up. Do a little stretching before you begin. Stretch out your legs and back. Here is a link to a good routine: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/multimedia/stretching/sls-20076840
- Drinks lots of water. Muscles need water to function optimally. When you maintain your body’s water levels during use, you allow your muscles to coordinate with each other properly and support your physical activity
- Mix it up. Change activities every 25 to 45 minutes. While you are heading to the back yard stretch out while you are walking.
- Lifting – When lifting bags of dirt, mulch or potted plants, keep your back straight and bend with your knees and hips (not your back) when reaching down. http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/proper-lifting-technique
- Take a break. Especially if it gets hot, you will need to rest every 45 to 60 minutes.
- Mowing – Leaning forward as you push the lawn mower can strain your back. Be sure to maintain proper posture and push with your arms and legs instead of your back.
- Weeding - Get on your knees when weeding. Don’t bend at the waist.
- Raking - When raking, switch sides every so often. Switching sides will even out muscle use.
- Wear shoes that are designed for yard work and are comfortable.
- Weather – Don’t work in the yard on the hottest day of the year. During the summer, work in the yard in early morning or evening when the temperature is lower.
- Setting out lawn and patio furniture often requires a bit of heavy lifting. Whenever possible, grab an extra set of hands to help with awkward or heavy items.
- Pruning hedges- Don’t overextend your arms when pruning. When trimming back bushes, keep the sheers close to your body and try to keep your shoulders at or below ninety degrees of elevation.
If you experience back pain after doing yard work, here are a few treatment tips. Since we are not medical professionals, we went to the experts regarding treatment. According to Web MD, here are a few treatment suggestions:
- Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation, says E. Anne Reicherter, PhD, PT, DPT.
- Keep moving. "Our spines are like the rest of our body -- they're meant to move," says Reicherter. Keep doing your daily activities. Make the beds, go to work, walk the dog.
- Stretch. Don't sit slumped in your desk chair all day. Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way.
- Propping pillows behind your back and under knees when resting to take pressure off of your lower back.