don't hurt your back doing yard work

By David J BenEliyahu DC, DABCSP, DAAPM

Spring cleaning blog

Thankfully it’s that time of year again. Spring is here, and as we emerge from winter hibernation, many of us will jump into our spring cleaning projects. Don’t let spring clean up mean you are ‘springing’ to the emergency room from an overuse or acute injury.

Whether you plan to clean up all the dead branches and debris laying on the lawn, get your flower beds into shape, clean out your closets, or just go through the house with a dust mop and vacuum, it’s best to start slowly with small goals. Do not try and do it all on the first warm weekend, but instead make a list, and set goals over a scheduled time frame. This will help prevent an overuse injury to your back or joints.

Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Lift with your legs, not your back. Squat down, pick up the object, and then stand up. Also avoid bending and reaching, and if the object is heavy get help.
  2. Push—don’t pull. Pushing puts less pressure on your back.
  3. Be careful when climbing to reach high surfaces. Use a step stool or ladder, but NOT if you feel tired or dizzy, or have balance issues. Don’t climb a ladder if it’s very windy outside. Always maintain three points of contact, two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
  4. Warm up before doing your yard work.
  5. Maintain good posture. Keep a wide base of support. When raking, stand up straight and move your arms back and forth with proper spacing on the rake.
  6. Wear proper shoes with skid resistant soles.
  7. Pace and hydrate yourself. Take frequent breaks.
  8. Don’t overdo any one task. Rotate tasks every 15 minutes.
  9. Cool down when you are finished.

Keep in mind that any muscle soreness you experience should go away after a day or so. If experience dizziness, shortness of breath, light-headedness, sudden severe headache, excess sweating, chest or stomach pain, go the emergency room.

David J BenEliyahu DC, DABCSP, DAAPM is Administrative Director of the Back and Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital.