As the grass finally starts to grow back from the winter months, it becomes a gentle reminder that a lot of work is ahead for you. Every year, thousands of injuries result from poor mechanics when performing yard work and many other injuries result from general mistakes.
While you get prepared to start your spring cleaning outdoors, it is important to consider ways to keep your body healthy and running strong all summer long. Proper consideration now can prevent many unwanted and unneeded medical bills, allowing your time in the yard to be relaxing opposed to causing additional stress.
The following are some helpful tips to prevent yard work injuries this spring and throughout the year:
1. Pay attention to the details
It is extremely common for individuals to get distracted with their thoughts while out in the yard. When this happens, it becomes easy to overlook rocks or debris which can quickly become dangerous projectiles when they come in contact with a lawn mower or weed eater.
It is also important to look for uneven ground that may cause an ankle or knee injury when carrying heavy objects or mowing the lawn. This uneven ground may be tough to see if the grass is too high, therefore a walk through prior to starting work is recommended. Flagging uneven ground may prove to be helpful in preventing a number of injuries.
2. Don’t forget to warm-up
Warming up prior to doing yard work may seem like a ridiculous idea. However, similar to performing any athletic activity it is important to get the body loose prior to engaging in strenuous physical activity. Failing to do so will leave the muscles cold and susceptible to injury when starting out, especially if carrying heavy materials.
It is not essential to perform an overly dynamic warm-up as you would before going for a run or hitting the gym, but light stretching of the major muscle groups in addition to moving the limbs and trunk around will help to get the blood flowing. This will prepare the body for physical activity, preventing and minor muscle strains from becoming nagging injuries over the next few months.
3. Use proper mechanics
Using proper mechanics when performing any physical activity including yard work is the best way to prevent injury. We all know the saying “lift with your legs and not your back” but not many actually put this saying into practice outside of the gym. Keep this in mind as you move pavers or larger plants around the garden. Bracing your core and thinking about proper movement will help keep you healthy, especially when considering back injuries.
If you do not possess the proper range of motion to use proper lifting and movement mechanics, it is important that you start a flexibility program that uses a combination of static and dynamic stretching. The inability to get in certain positions because of range of motion will greatly increase your risk of injuries, both minor and more substantial, such as in the case of a herniated disc.
This applies to both big movements as well as things that require a longer period of postural control, such as gardening. If you feel yourself starting to tighten-up while mending to your flowers or vegetables, it is a good idea to get up for a few minutes to get the blood flowing, assess your position, and get back to work in a healthy spine neutral position.
4. Read equipment manuals
While proper mechanics are important, many yard work injuries are the result of improper or negligent equipment use. Before operating new lawn care equipment or equipment you may not already be familiar with, read the manual to understand all of its safety features and instructions for use.
Always be mindful of your fingers or other extremities any time you are operating any equipment that has a blade including lawn mowers, edgers, chainsaws or hedge trimmers. Remember, sharp blades have the potential to cause injury even when they are not in motion.
5. Know your limits
Whether you’re 20 or 65 years old, there’s a good chance you don’t want to think of yourself as having limits when performing yard work duties. Whether you are trying to carry two bags of grass clippings in one trip or save money by scaling a ladder to clean the gutters yourself, pushing past your limits and comfort zone increase your risk of injury.
As with anything in life that requires a physical demand, be honest with your capabilities when it comes to yard work. There’s no shame in outsourcing these tasks to a professional especially when it helps you avoid an unexpected trip to the emergency room.
6. Have a plan if things go south
Taking the proper precautions can help you to get the most out of your body, achieve the tasks you need done and keep you healthy in the process. But, accidents can happen to even those who go to great lengths to prevent them.
The experienced team at Paris Orthopedic specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of injuries and conditions, including the most common yard work injuries such as strains, sprains and fractures. To request an appointment, call (903) 737-0000.