Avoiding Back Pain From Spring Yard Clean Up
With the snow almost fully melted and the brown grass showing, many homeowners are thinking of tidying up their yard for spring. However, because it has been several months since this sort of yard work has been done, we are largely out of shape to do it. Here are a few tips to help prevent back pain as you get out to tidy your yard!
Spring yard clean up typically consists of (but not limited to) the following:
-Removing any waste/dead material from grass/planting beds
-Preparing flower beds
Rule #1: Plan out what you need to do, and spread it out over several days. Trying to do it all in one weekend might be a possibility, but because your body isn't ready for this sort of labour is a surefire way to end up in your Chiropractor's office with back pain.
Removing Waste/Dead Material:
This is likely one of the bigger jobs you will have. This includes raking dead grass, pinecones, litter/animal faeces, and leaves from your lawn and flower beds. It is important to use the right tool for the job, preferably a lighter rake to collect all of these materials. Using a stand to place your compost bag in/on will also help limit the amount of bending and twisting. As you are raking and collecting material, move your feet, keep your spine neutral, and try to keep your elbows close to your body to avoid over-reaching.
Again, use the right tool for the job. Ensure your shears are sharp, and preferably when purchasing select a tool with an ergonomic handle so your hand suffers less fatigue. When stooping to get lower lying dead bits, keep the spine straight, and try to either kneel (using knee pads or a cushion), squat, or sit on a small stool. If you are trying to prune higher branches, get a good step stool or ladder, or alternatively a long-reach pruning tool. Keep in mind, whenever your arms are working above your head they will typically fatigue quickly, so ensure to take adequate rest!
Preparing Flower Beds:
Again, using appropriate tools for the job is important here. Once you have removed any dead debris from your flower beds, turning over the soil must be done prior to planting. Using a tiller (preferably a rotary handheld one, or an electric/gas version), to turn over compacted soil. At this point adding compost or topsoil can add to the soils overall nutrients. Take your time using the tiller, and again keep the tiller directly in front of your body and avoid over-reaching. As you are working here, remove any weeds that you encounter. This likely involves you working at ground level, so remember to keep your spine straight, and either kneel or squat low (or sit on a low stool) to protect your spine. Depending on the size of your garden, this might take several hours, so take your time, and take several breaks to avoid fatigue.
Stretch Prior to & After Yard Work:
Yard work is an athletic event. Warm up muscles appropriately before jumping in, including some stretches to the shoulders, neck, and low back. Perform stretches after you are done working in the yard to prevent back pain as much as possible. Take breaks throughout the day (approximately 10 minutes every hour) to prevent fatigue, and ensure you stay properly hydrated with water.
visit https://straightenupalberta.com for a full stretching routine to do before and after yard work!
Dr. Elaine Screaton (DC, BSc) is a NW Calgary Chiropractor currently practicing at Synergea Family Health Centre in Calgary, AB. She is a beginner gardener, but is honing her skills growing carrots and radishes!