That crisp autumn fall air seems to give us all a renewed sense of vigor. We run outdoors to do that last minute yard work before the big football game or as a way to get the kids outside before winter really sets in. Yard work (raking, shoveling, mowing, planting) can cause strain on your back. There are, however, things you can do to protect your back. Remember these three things the next time you are prepping for outdoor work.
1. Warm Up. Warming up DOES NOT MEAN stretching, rather, take a walk, a run, a ride around on a bicycle or do some jumping jacks. You need to get the muscles warmed up, so do these activities for at least five minutes.
2. Consider your form. Our bodies are really amazing machines, our joints, bones, and muscles interact in a complicated system of biomechanics that allow us to accomplish work. Just like a car, you can’t have things out of alignment, or their will be wear and tear on your body.
That being said, you should consider the following when doing physical work:
CONSIDER YOUR POSTURE by standing up as a straight as possible. This doesn’t just mean your back being straight; keep your neck and head aligned with your back (i.e. no stooping of your head down). To maintain a straight back while raking, keep one foot forward and one foot back. Alternate occasionally, to keep from overstraining one side.
KEEP THE WORK CLOSE TO YOUR BODY. Never reach out beyond your center of gravity to do work. Move closer to your work. For instance, if you are planting, make sure you bend your knees, not your back, and use your arm muscles to do the work.
NEVER REACH and TWIST. Face the thing that you are reaching for or picking up. Never twist and reach for the object, you must maintain alignment between the shoulders and hips. This reduces the twisting of your back. If you have problems thinking about how to do this, imagine yourself as the tin man and how he would have to move in order to pick something up.
3. Seek Care. If pain does happen, you should try stretching the affected area within the first 30 minutes and schedule a massage appointment no sooner than 24 hours later, usually 24-48hrs later is best, to allow the initial inflammation to subside. Massaging too soon after the accident can increase the inflammation. While waiting for the massage, one can take natural anti-inflammatory remedies of their choice or a NSAID like Ibuprofen, if they prefer, or topical anti-inflammatory creams.
Follow these easy steps and your back and yard will be happy for the coming winter months. Happy raking!