5 safety tips to remember when working in the yard.

by James Moser, PT, DPT
June 24, 2020

Everyone is spending more time at home these days, which hopefully means you are getting around to tackling that “to-do list” of projects. And with the warm summer weather, a lot of those projects probably have to do with your yard or outdoor space. Practicing safe techniques when working around the yard is crucial to helping prevent injuries.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while you’re working on your projects this summer. Although these examples are specific to yard work and gardening, the same principles can be applied to most projects at home, from cleaning the garage to storing items in the attic.

Plan on tackling some yard work this summer? Practicing safe techniques while doing so is crucial to preventing injuries. Here are five safety tips to keep in mind when you’re working in the yard via @MedStarHealth #LiveWellHealthy: https://bit.ly/31bEsrl.

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1. Warm up.

It is imperative to warm up before any physical activity. Whether you are going for a run or tackling that backyard landscaping project, a warm-up is equally important to avoid injury. Try doing some small dynamic stretches and movements of your arms and legs that mimic the activities you are about to perform. This will get your body moving, increase your heart rate, and enhance the power, flexibility, and range of motion of your muscles. Dynamic stretches can include high knees and leg extensions.

2. Be careful lifting.

Lifting is probably the most common activity you will do when working around the house. Improper lifting can cause serious back injury. Here is a “top-down” checklist to ensure proper lifting mechanics:

  • Assess the object that you are going to lift and/or carry. Before you attempt to lift yourself, make sure you have the appropriate equipment (if needed) and/or assistance from a family member for heavier items. If you do not have assistance, divide the weight of your load into smaller amounts as much as possible.
  • Keep your eyes forward and look slightly upward to help maintain a neutral position in your back. If you keep your eyes and head looking at the ground when lifting, you might cause your spine to be in a flexed position, which could lead to possible injury.
  • Brace your core before and during the activity. This does not mean hold your breath! An easy way to think about bracing your abdominal muscles is to imagine you are about to be hit in the stomach and you tense your muscles to protect yourself.
  • Hold items close to your stomach. This significantly reduces the unwanted stress on your back and allows you to perform the movement with greater ease. Just as holding a gallon of milk with an outstretched arm is more difficult than with a bent elbow, the same is true when lifting a bag of mulch.
  • Keep your weight on your heels. Shifting your weight onto your toes when lifting heavy items from the ground can place unwanted stress into your knees. When those movements are done repetitively, they can certainly leave you sore and lead to possible injury.
  • Lift with your legs. Position yourself close to the object you are lifting. Make sure you bend your knees to bring your body down to the object, not bending at your waist to reach it. Press through your heels and straighten your legs to lift.
  • If you must turn, turn your feet, not your torso. Even if what you are carrying is not heavy, doing this repetitively is a very common cause of injury.
  • Be aware of your energy level. If you are starting to fatigue and feel discomfort, it’s time for a break. Pushing yourself can lead to serious injury.

3. Protect your knees.

For many people, gardening is a relaxing hobby that keeps them occupied for long periods of time. But kneeling in your garden bed, even for just a few minutes, can leave your knees feeling stiff and sore. Sitting back on your knees can also lead to using your hands and wrists to stabilize when reaching, and requires your hands and wrists to bear your weight while shifting from kneeling to standing.

If you don’t have knee pads or a garden pad, here are some items that can serve as a temporary replacement:

  • Doormat
  • Folded blanket
  • Cardboard
  • Old rug or piece of carpet

4. Avoid twisting.

You may find yourself needing to shovel at some point to break up those roots or move a pile of dirt. Just remember to step towards where you are placing the dirt rather than twisting. Repetitive and uncontrolled twisting of your back can lead to aches and pain. Avoid injury by taking that extra step (literally!).

5. Save energy with small movements.

When raking, think small. Making short sweeps rather than broad ones. This is more energy efficient and will not be so draining. It will also save you from overworking your shoulders. After all, you do want to save a little energy for the games to be played on your updated yard.

Help avoid bodily aches and pains by warming up, using proper mechanics, and saving energy whenever you are performing physical activity around the house. If you experience soreness or pain lasting longer than a few days after activity, you may benefit from physical therapy. Ask your physician if physical therapy is right for you.

Want to learn more about physical therapy services with MedStar Health?

Click here.

Category: Living Well     Tags: gardeningMedStar HealthPhysical Therapysafety tipsyard work