Five Quick Tips to Prevent Injuries from Yardwork this Spring

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rakingJill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS

The snow has melted and that green grass is getting longer by the day. We all know what that means - spring yard spruce-up time. Springtime if one of our busiest times in the clinic treating all of those folks who decide to do all of their yardwork for the year in one weekend. So before you grab that rake and pruning shears, read through a few tips to prevent a heap of pain from limiting your springtime landscaping clean-up.

5. Dance with your Rake. While you don’t need to groove out to hip hop to impress your neighbors, you do need to “dance” with your rake by moving your hips, shifting your weight from one foot to the other to let your legs do the work, instead of your back. Also avoid over-reaching by taking too far and long of swaths with your rake. Keep your work well within reach, starting the rake no more than the width of the rake away from your feet and then pull the rake back toward you using that weight shifting technique. Your back will thank you!

4. Divide and Conquer. How many hours did you spend raking and pruning every day in winter? Yes, that’s what I thought. Don’t expect to do it for 8 hours on the first nice day of spring and then wonder why your back is achy and your forearms are ready to explode. Do no more than 1-2 hours of each activity each day to prevent repetitive movement injuries to the back, forearms, elbows, shoulders, knees and feet.

3. Sharpen your Blade. It happens every spring - you pick up last year’s pruning shears and wonder what forest your kids or spouse last chopped down with it. Resist the urge to plow ahead anyway with dull shears. You will simply wear out yourself and your landscaping won’t look so hot either. Take that trip to a home improvement store to step up your equipment. Your arms and roses will thank you.

2. Reaching for the Stars. Well not really. But reaching over and over again to pick up piles can do a number on your low back. Some solutions? Borrow the neighbor kids or get your own involved in learning what it takes to maintain the yard. No kids in sight? Squat down on one or both knees to get yourself closer to your work without abusing your back. Squat close to the pile and of course have your bucket very close by as you twist with your whole body through your knees or feet (whatever is contacting the ground), not your back, to pick up the pile. Remember the landscapers trick of laying a tarp around a bush before pruning to ease in clean up. Finally, if you have just had a hip or knee replacement, purchase a reacher to help with picking up sticks, and engage some friends, neighbors, and pay for a helper for those low to the ground places you cannot safely get to just yet.

1. Spread the Wealth. Have that big topsoil, compost, or shredded bark pile to spread in places all around the house and yard? DO NOT plan to do the whole job in one day. Break up the job into 1-2 hour sessions per day to avoid injury (you can always cover the pile with a tarp if it’s going to rain). Have some help if you can to divide the work. Use the right equipment- a good shovel taking small loads, with a wheelbarrow or tarp close by. Bend your hips and knees, not your back, to fill and then dump your load. Take scoops from the bottom, not from the top, to make the job easier.

Followed all of these rules but still feeling aches and pains lasting longer than a week? If icing, resting, and stretching have not worked, call us for a complementary injury screening, and we can give you more advice on how to treat your injury. We have convenient before and after work appointment times available at MotionWorks at 920-215-2050.