We’re actually starting to see the first signs of spring here in North Carolina. After a long and wet winter, a lot of us are as excited as a kid at Christmas to get out and do things outside. For some, this means getting out and working in the yard. But before you start tackling the weeds or revving up the lawnmower, remember to protect your back. Just as playing football or golf can injure your body, the twisting, turning, bending, and the reaching of the mowing and raking can also cause injury to your back if it is not prepared. Like an athlete, without warming up, the chances of injury are greater. So there are a few things you need to remember to protect your back and neck from yard work.
Here are some tips to protect your back and neck as your do yard work:
Stretch Before You Work
Without bouncing, for 10 to 15 minutes, do knee-to-chest pulls, trunk rotations, and side bends with your hands above your head and fingers locked. Take a short walk to stimulate circulation. When finished with the yard work, repeat the stretching exercises. This will protect your back by warming up the muscles before and after you use them.
The worst thing you can do for your back is bending over at the waist, especially for long periods of time. You don’t want to be pulling weeds or planting flowers bending over at the waist while standing. I usually recommend that my patients kneel down with a mat that you can purchase at any hardware store or get a stool that you can sit on to weed or plant. This will protect your back from bending over for long periods of time.
You also want to be careful using equipment like weed-eaters or blowers. You want to hold the tool as close to your body as possible and stand up as straight as you can. You don’t want to twist with your back either – move your feet as you move the blower or weed-eater. This will protect your back from the twisting motion which can often cause injury to a disc.
When mowing, you want to use your whole bodyweight to push the mower, rather than your arms and back. Try to stand up as straight as possible and keep the handlebar close to your stomach. You don’t want to be bending over at the waist and pushing the mower with your arms extended straight out in front of you. If your mower has a pull cord, don’t twist at the waist or yank the cord. Instead, bend at the knees and pull in one smooth motion. Also, keep your head up as your mow.
When raking, use ‘scissors’ stance: right foot forward and left foot back, reverse after a few minutes, putting your left foot forward and right foot back. You also want to keep your head up as you rake so you don’t get a kink in your neck.
As you pick up piles of grass or leaves, do not bend at the waist. Make the piles small to decrease the possibility of back strain while doing yardwork.
If you do feel soreness or stiffness in your back after yardwork, use ice to soothe the discomfort. If there is no improvement in two or three days, see your doctor of chiropractic.