By: Mallory Berschauer, PT, DPT, OCS
Do you commonly experience back pain related to yard work and seasonal tasks?
Did you know that being mindful of body position and movement techniques when performing these tasks may significantly reduce symptoms of pain or discomfort?
One of my favorite aspects of being a Physical Therapist is helping clients learn tips and tricks they can use in their daily life in order to prevent onset of symptoms. Many of these tips are related to activity modification, posture and movement techniques, and learning what muscles to keep flexible and strong to support them in their activities of choice.
In November, the colorful leaves of Autumn start to drop from the trees and yards need to be prepared for the winter season. This can involve repetitive tasks of bending, lifting, pushing and pulling. A history of recurrent back pain (or other joints too!) and cold weather can often be a recipe for increased discomfort after these activities.
Here are a few helpful hints to reduce occurrence of symptoms with these activities:
Proper Warm-Up: Prior to yard or household work, go on a short walk around your neighborhood to warm-up your body for activity.
Use ergonomic tools: Kneeling pads, benches, wheelbarrows, wagons, and properly fitting garden tools can help reduce stress on your body as you kneel, bend, dig, and carry loads.
Take rest breaks: The entire project does not need to be completed in one afternoon. Work for 1-2 hours and then allow yourself a rest break. Listen to your body, if you are starting to feel fatigued or sore, rest until another day.
Proper Body Mechanics: Bend and lift with your legs, not your back. Gently engage your abdominal muscles and remember to keep breathing with you lift, carry loads, push or pull. Keep your wrists straight as you lift and carry items.
Avoid prolonged static positions: Do not stay in one position for too long. If you have been kneeling for 30 minutes, get up and switch to a standing position.
Stay hydrated: Even when the weather is cooler, drinking plenty or water and staying nourished during your physical activity is important to preventing injury.
Stretch your muscles and cool-down following the activity: In addition to stretching key muscles in your arms, legs, and back; you may find benefit from walking 1 or 2 laps around your yard to cool-down before you kick up your feet and rest.
As always, consult a healthcare provider before attempting a new exercise routine or physical activity, especially if you have history of injury.
If you have aches and pains that are preventing you from doing the activities you enjoy, including yardwork, consider Physical Therapy. A physical therapist can perform an assessment to better understand what may be contributing to your pain and teach you specific exercises to get your body moving pain-free again.