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Posted on 10-05-2017

Fall Yard Work Tips

It’s fall, time for preparing our yards for the winter ahead.  Typical fall cleanup tasks such as raking, pruning, cleaning debris, planting bulbs and shrubs and cleaning gutters can cause back pain, muscle strain, repetitive motion injuries, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as other injuries and accidents.

You’re much more likely to injure yourself if you fail to warm up your muscles first. Cold muscles are more prone to strains and sprains. To warm up, take a brisk 5-10 minute walk, do ten jumping jacks or simply stretch out muscles that tend to become sore as you work.

Here are a few stretches that work wonders for preventing lower back strain or pain. Get into the habit of doing these stretches before and after your gardening or yard work sessions:

Knees to chest. Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Wrap your arms around your shins, or just grab onto your knees. Press your back into the floor, and hold for a minute. Rest, and repeat twice more.

Chair stretch. Sit in a chair, and scoot forward so your sit bones are near the edge of the chair. Gently round your back forward until your hands touch the floor. Relax your weight forward; relax all back muscles from the crown of your head down to your hips. Hold for as long as feels good to you. This is an excellent stretch for both back pain relief and prevention.

Seated figure 4.  Sitting at the edge of your chair, place the outside of your right ankle on top of your left thigh. Lengthen your spine and gently fold forward until you feel a good stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Minimize Repetitive Motions: Don’t try to get everything done in one session. Alternating tasks between kneeling, standing, walking, climbing ladders, digging or raking is a good way to break up the repetitive motion.

Raking: Avoid twisting your body while raking.  Try to pull the rake towards you. Use your legs to shift your weight rather than twisting your back. Throwing leaves over the shoulder or to the side while raking involves twisting movements that can overly strain the muscles in the back.

Use a properly-sized rake for your height and strength.

Wear gloves to help prevent blisters on the hands.

Bend at the knees, rather than the waist, to pick up items.

Do not overfill leaf bags, and remember wet leaves are especially heavy. To avoid injury, you should be able to handle bags comfortably, without straining.

Digging: Make sure you keep the shovel in front of you and avoid twisting motions. If you need to get to an area on the side, re-position yourself to keep the shovel in line with your body.

Lifting: If you are transporting heavy pots or planters, use a wheelbarrow. When you are lifting to put them in the wheelbarrow, make sure to get the power from your legs instead of your back and never twist while holding heavy objects.

Hydrate!  Bring a water bottle outside with you and drink plenty especially if it is warm out.  Remember that soda, caffeinated drinks and alcohol are not hydrating.

Take breaks:  Remember to change your position every 15 to 30 minutes to stretch or tend to a different task.

Power Tool Use for Avoiding Lower Back Pains

Electric tools such as leaf blowers and weed whackers can definitely make your work load lighter – but they can also cause soreness if they’re not used correctly.

Keep your back happy by:

Using straps when available. Many motorized garden tools feature a strap to better distribute the weight of the machine. Wear the strap across your chest – your head and one shoulder should be “inside” the strap. This will help the tool hang from your center of gravity.

Switching orientation often. Most of us feel most comfortable when motorized tools hang from the shoulder opposite our dominant hand. For instance, right-handed gardeners typically place the strap on the left shoulder so the tool is handy for their stronger right arm. Over time, however, this habit can cause unevenness in the body. Therefore, you should switch to the other shoulder regularly – say, every fifteen minutes or so.

Choosing electric-powered tools. More weight means more stress on the body. Electric power tools often weigh less than their gas-powered counterparts.

When you're done, gently stretch any muscles that feel tense.  A hot bath can relax tired and sore muscles.

If you experience pain, apply a cold pack on the area for the first 48 hours or apply a moist heat pack after 48 hours.

If you find that you are still feeling sore or stiff or have pain after a day or two, it is time to consider Chiropractic care. Often times, it doesn’t matter how much you warm up and stretch; if there is an underlying spinal problem, you will eventually feel the effects of it, which means it has already done some damage to your health. Don’t wait any longer! 

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