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How to Avoid Back Strain When Doing Fall Chores

If you’re one of the millions of weekend warriors around the nation thinking about yard cleanup as winter approaches, you should keep your back health in mind as you weed, rake and dig your way through your outdoor chores.

Kaliq Chang, MD of Atlantic Spine Center, tells us that many avid gardeners forget that yard work is physical exercise that’s capable of injuring you if you don’t proceed carefully.

So, yard work and gardening should be treated like the exercise it is, Dr. Chang says, offering these tips to avoid major back pain from overworking back muscles in the yard:

Warm up. Take a light stroll around the garden and stretch your leg, back, neck and arm muscles before getting started.

Stay hydrated. Yard work often leads to perspiration – sometimes profuse. Replace lost water to ward off muscle cramping and spasms that can lead to back injuries.

Squat…instead of bending. Ripping out weeds or planting bulbs for next spring is easier on the spine when you squat instead of bending over, Dr. Chang says.

Lift from the legs. Muscles in the thighs and glutes are much better suited to lifting heavy loads, like mulch, than muscles in the lower back.

Mix it up. Frequently move from one type of gardening activity to another, giving different sets of muscles time to rest.

Wear the right shoes. Good foot and arch support can prevent that strain from traveling up your back. Don’t wear sandals or flip-flops while gardening – opt for sturdy sneakers or boots instead.

Use the right tools. Let your yard tools do some of the work instead of your back muscles. Trimmers, also known as “weed eaters,” keep you upright while edging and weeding. Similarly, a retractable garden hose makes it easier to carry around while watering various areas of the yard.

And what if your best efforts fail to stop back strain from developing after yard work? 

Dr. Chang says apply ice, which works better for more recent injuries versus heat. And consider light physical activity like walking and stretching to help keep muscles limber and speed recovery after back strain!

Published with permission from RISMedia.