Fall is well on its way, and with it comes copious amounts of leaves that need raking. Your lawn quickly turns from a beautiful, lush, picturesque green scene to a collection of dead leaves practically overnight. When this happens, it’s hard to resist the impulse to get out there and clean it up ASAP, right?
Well, before you head out to clean up your lawn this fall, there are a few safety tips you should keep in mind when in comes to your spine. People of any age should be careful not to throw their spine out of alignment while doing yard work, because it’s extremely easy to do. The heavy lifting, repetitive movements, and overall strain on your body can cause anyone pain.
In order to keep your back safe while doing yard work in the Juneau area this fall, there are a variety of techniques, movements, and preventative measures you can take to make sure you don’t get injured. Protect your neck and back and keep them safe while doing yard work with the simple tips below.
Possibly the most important thing you can do for your body in order to keep your back safe while doing yard work is to warm up first. This is a commonly overlooked part of doing yard work, as most people just head outside and get to work! But just like any other type of exercise, yard work puts a lot of physical strain on your body, and if it’s not properly warmed up, that can quickly lead to injury, especially in your back. If nothing else, it also helps combat muscle soreness post yard work.
When stretching, make sure to breathe deeply through each stretch, inhaling as you’re coming into it until you reach peak stretch for that muscle group, and exhaling as you come out of it. Also make sure not to bounce or jerk your body as you stretch – another common mistake.
Here are a few of the best warm-up stretches you can do for yard work, recommended by the American Chiropractic Association:
- Interlace your fingers together and raise your hands above your head, palms up. This helps open up your shoulders and arms. Lean to one side, stretching the side of your body, and hold for 10 seconds. Switch sides and do the same. Repeat two to three times.
- Take a deep inhale and exhale, and as you exhale, wrap your arms around your body. Rotate to one side as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds, then rotate to the other side. Repeat two to three times. This helps open up your upper back and the trunk of your body.
- Bend your left knee and grab your left foot with your left hand. Keep right hand on the wall or a surface for balance. Pull your heel toward the back of your leg and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side. This stretches out the quad muscles.
- While standing, prop your heel on a wall or vertical surface with your knee slightly bent. With your hands at your hips, or on the surface in front of you for balance, bend your upper body forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstring in the back of your thigh. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
It may also be beneficial for you to do some gentle trunk twists to help warm up your body and protect your back. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t feel any pain while doing these stretches, just a gentle opening of the muscles. If there is pain, you might have over-extended, and you may not be able to do your yard work, so be careful! But overall, these stretches shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes total, so there’s no reason not to do them before you get out there and start your yard work.
Watch Your Alignment
After you’ve sufficiently warmed up your body, there are a few things you can do while you’re performing your yard work to make sure you’re not hurting your back long-term. In terms of proper alignment, be careful to avoid hunching over when raking. This can wreak havoc on your upper back and neck.
Also, you should make sure both sides of your body are getting equal movement. For example, when you’re raking, place one foot in front of the other, then switch after a few minutes, and so forth. This ensures that both sets of muscles are getting used, and there won’t be an imbalance of muscle strain on either side. Keeping things in line and balanced is key to avoiding back injury.
Use Proper Body Mechanics
Along those lines, there are a few things you should keep in mind in terms of proper body mechanics as well. First of all, always bend from the knees, not the waist or hips, and keep your back as straight as possible when lifting anything, especially heavy equipment or piles of leaves. Try to make multiple small piles of leaves or grass to avoid excess muscle strain as well. Consider using a wheelbarrow to move things around the yard, as this will take some weight off of your back.
Also, when using heavy equipment (or any equipment, really), make sure to keep the device as close to your body as possible to even out the weight and not put too much strain on your arms and shoulders. The same thing goes for lifting piles of leaves – keep everything close to your body in order to evenly distribute the weight.
Avoid Repetitive Movements
This is imperative to preventing back injury. Repetitive movements are rough on your entire body, and can easily throw you out of alignment, leading to pain or injury. It’s also easy to do with yard work, as much of it is repetitive, and it’s easy to fall into the mindset of getting one task done, then another, etc.
The best way to avoid repetitive movements while doing yard work, it’s best to break up your tasks based on what body position they require. For example, if you’re pulling weeds for a few minutes hunched over and pulling them up, break it up by trimming the hedges for a few minutes in between sections so that you can let your body do the opposite motion – standing and reaching.
Take Frequent Breaks
It’s also important to take frequent breaks while doing yard work. Muscle fatigue can easily happen, and this leads to injuries faster than anything else. Take a break inside with the air conditioning blasting, or just sit for a few minutes in between bouts of intense work to give your body the break it needs. You could even stretch during these breaks as a little reset.
Wear Supportive Shoes
Even though it’s warm out, wearing sandals or other non-supportive shoes while doing yard work can be terrible for your back. Opt instead for sneakers or boots with good arch support in order to prevent strain on your lower and mid back.
If you have chronic neck or back pain, one of the best things you can do in terms of yard work is opt for electric equipment instead of heavy manual tools. They tend to be much lighter and easier to work with overall than their heavy alternatives, even gas powered tools, and will put much less strain on your body.
Also see if you can find equipment that has ergonomic padded handles with good grip to prevent muscle strain in the arms.
Other Safety Tips
Yard work can be dangerous, and it subjects you to a lot of different types of injury. Some other important safety tips to keep in mind when doing yard work include having someone spot you and going slow on ladders, wearing protective eyewear at all times, and wearing proper clothing to protect against thorns, poison ivy, etc.
Also make sure to wear plenty of waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen and drink more water than you normally would. Insect repellent is also a good idea. Avoid working during the hottest parts of the day in order to avoid fatigue. Try to work in the early morning (before 11 a.m.) or evening (after 4 p.m.) for optimal temperatures. Also see if family or friends can help you out in order to distribute the workload and put less strain and pressure only on yourself.
Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab Can Help!
If you’ve experienced an injury due to strenuous yard work, or if you just want to use chiropractic care as a preventative measure to keep your spine healthy, Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab has trained practitioners to keep you in line and safe from injury. Call today before 4 p.m. and we’ll get you in same day! You also won’t wait more than 10 minutes in the office for an appointment.
Take advantage of chiropractic adjustments, physical rehabilitative therapy, and other comprehensive services we offer in order to keep your back healthy and strong. Stay safe and keep your yard looking beautiful by keeping the above tips in mind and seeing a Juneau chiropractor regularly.
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.