As spring arrives, most homeowners begin the annual task of clearing winter debris and preparing their home for spending more time outdoors. Frequently, injuries result as muscles long dormant during the winter months experience much more activity in a brief period of time than usual. A recent column by a physical therapist and yard keeper in the Gloucester Daily Times provides some common sense advice for preventing injury doing spring yard work.
- "Weeding is one of the most labor-intensive outdoor jobs and is responsible for more low-back injuries seen in a physical therapy clinic than almost any other springtime activity. Repeated pulling at stubborn weeds creates a strain in the lumbar discs. With your back in an already compromised, bent-forward position, one good yank at a tough weed may be enough to bulge a disc. A half-kneeling position is a much safer way to pull weeds.
- 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. Many hands makes a healthy back.
- Not all the planting needs to be done at once. …[S]everal consecutive hours of planting leaves you at risk for straining muscles, ligaments or other tissues. These strains often sideline people for weeks at a time. Breaking up the planting into small increments minimizes your risk of injury and maximizes your chance of having everything you want in your garden.
- Raking and cleaning up debris takes a lot more energy than it is often credited. When raking sticks and leaves, take slow, steady strokes with the rake. This ensures that you don’t burn too much energy and increases the chance that your body mechanics will stand up to the task of debris detail.
- Pruning hedges with heavy sheers is an easy way to acquire rotator cuff tendonitis. Over extending your arm with a heavy object in your hand is a quick recipe for a tendon injury. When trimming back bushes, keep the sheers close to your body and try to keep your shoulders at or below ninety degrees of elevation. This position protects the delicate rotator cuff from tearing. A surgical repair of the rotator cuff is followed by a lengthy and uncomfortable rehabilitation, so shield yourself from harm before it happens.
- Take breaks frequently. Many injuries result from overly tired muscles. When a muscle becomes fatigued, its ability to stabilize a joint or create enough force to accomplish a routine task diminishes considerably. It is at this point that people risk injuries such as discs, nerves and tendon tears.
- Change activities whenever possible. Repetitive activities wear down body parts. Changing your activity every thirty minutes is an easy way to avoid a repetitive strain injury."