Preparing For Fall Yard Clean Up
Preparing our yards or cleaning the shed or garage for the winter months presents us with additional activities that seem to bring on back or neck pain. It can be a new injury or a flare-up of an old problem. Nevertheless taking a few minutes to prepare yourself before you begin your task can save or at least minimize the aches and pains that may result from the work. This article discusses some basic stretches to do prior to starting and some recommendations for when the yard work is finished for the day.
Can What You Wear For Yard Clean Up Be Important?
The answer is yes; it’s very important. Clothing that’s baggy can get caught on protruding branches which can result in a trip or fall. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get hurt from a fall. What are some other precautions to help minimize not only back or neck problems, but improve safety when working in the yard or garage? Some examples are:
- Long Sleeves and Long Pants – Wearing proper clothing when trimming or reaching in and around shrubs will minimize cuts and scratches when working in brush. This will minimize bare skin exposure to poisonous plants to include poison ivy or poison oak. In some areas, there are increasing problems with tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Sleeves and long pants help with protection. Have someone check areas on your body you cannot see after you’ve worked outdoors. Remove any ticks immediately to minimize the chance of infection.
- Gloves – They minimize blister formation.
- Safety Goggles – Using a chain saw or weed cutter can throw sawdust or dirt into your eyes. If you wear glasses, it’s even recommended that you find a pair of safety goggles that fit over your glasses.
- Ear Protection – Ear plugs or sound muffs will protect the ears when using loud or high pitched tools.
- Good Footwear – Good arch support helps to minimize abnormal stress on the joints of the lower extremity and spine. If the shoes do not have the proper arch support, you can obtain inexpensive orthotics that offer good support.
Precautions Once The Yard Work Begins
Many of us are working in jobs that are primarily sedentary and don’t require much physical exertion. On our days off or when the weekend arrives, we may spend several hours working in the yard, shed or garage. It is suggested that you make a realistic list of the projects you would like to accomplish for your clean up. Be careful to not overexert while raking, shoveling, trimming and lifting. A common scenario for pain from a straining injury to the neck, mid or lower back usually begins later in the day. What can we do to minimize injury? Some suggestions include:
- Stretching – Take a few minutes before you go outside and do some stretches for the neck, upper back and lower back.
- Raking Leaves – Set a limit on the time spent with this activity. For instance, rake in 30 minute increments, take a break to do some other task and return to raking after 15 minutes. If you have help in the yard, exchange activities with the other person during this time frame as it will aid both of you by requiring you to use different muscle groups. Setting goals for the day will allow you to change tasks and stick to your goals for completion.
- Changing Sides – If you rake or sweep primarily from the right side, try for a few minutes using the left side. This changes the action of the muscles giving your dominate side a break. You may not be as fast, but you’ll still be getting your work done.
- Lifting – “Nose and toes” lifting is keeping your toes and nose pointing in the same direction when lifting. Your back is at its strongest in this position. Twisting while lifting increases the potential for facet or disc injury to the back.
- Shoveling – The same recommendations apply for nose and toes alignment when shoveling. Try to avoid keeping the feet planted when throwing the shovel contents. Turn the body and move the front foot in the direction you are moving the dirt.
- Trimming Trees And Pruning Shrubs – Using a pole saw to cut down tree branches strains the mid back and shoulders. Limiting the number of branches per session of trimming will minimize the potential for injury. Take a break and move to another task before spending more time trimming. Use a knee pad while trimming small shrubs as this can minimizes knee pain. Change positions frequently moving around the bush to avoid stretching and straining in an awkward position.
- Taking A Break – Every couple of hours take a 10-15 minute break and drink water. It may be cool outside, but keeping the body hydrated is necessary. Eat a lighter lunch with complex carbohydrates and protein. Skip the junk food and fast burning carbohydrates like chips and sweets.