Avoid Back Pain With Spring Yard Work And Gardening

I hope that everyone is staying healthy during this unprecedented time with the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions that are in place to manage the spread of the virus. It is getting to be that time of year when we are all anxious to get outside and clean up our yards and gardens and put out our patio furniture to get ready for the summer season.  Now, more than ever, we are excited to get outside since many more people are working from home and have kids at home too.  Thankfully, being outside is recommended as long as you keep the proper social distancing from others.

When you do start your yardwork and gardening, it is important to remember to pace yourself and use good body mechanics to avoid aggravating an old back injury or creating a new one.

1. Pace yourself.

It is tempting to get out there and just “get it all done” in one day.  Most of our bodies haven’t done this type of work over the winter and can better tolerate the added yardwork and gardening if you dose out the workload over several days.  Limit work to a few hours with breaks, instead of all day, especially if you have a history of back problems.

2. Use good body mechanics.

This means that you want to avoid bending and twisting your back with spring (and other) activities.  In order to prevent your back from hurting, you need to use your legs with activities like lifting, raking, shoveling or similar tasks.   Proper body mechanics keeps your back in a neutral position and decreases the stress on the joints and muscles of your spine.  Good body mechanics uses the proper muscles in your legs and hips that are designed for heavier activities.

Remember to:

  • Bend your knees- squat and keep your knees over your feet when lifting something heavy.
  • Get the weight close to your body before lifting it.
  • Lunge with your legs when raking or vacuuming so you shift your body forward and back through your legs and not bend through your back.
  • Use a golfers lift for picking up light objects – this technique involves bending over and reaching with one hand while lifting the opposite leg.  This can be used when getting clothes out of the washer or dryer too.
  • Avoid twisting from your back by pivoting through your legs or moving your feet.  This means that if you need to turn to the right, you pivot on your left foot or take a step with your left foot so that your toes and shoulders are pointing in the same direction.

Your back will thank you for incorporating these body mechanics techniques for a safe and healthy spring.  If you do experience back pain, physical therapy can help decrease the intensity of pain and eliminate your pain so you can enjoy the things that you like to do.

If you have any questions about this topic or have questions about how physical therapy can help your back or any other injuries, please contact me at swalters@osipt.com

Written by: 
Shari Walters, PT, OCS