How to Prevent Back Injuries While Working in the Yard
Spring is finally here. With spring comes planting flowers, moving dirt and spreading mulch. Along with these yard chores comes low back aches and pains.
Low back pain is common. It can be brought about from improper lifting, twisting and bending, as well as poor conditioning. Improper technique in doing everyday activities can cause injuries to the muscles, discs, and facet joints (joints between the bones of the back).
Posture is the first area to look at. Mom was right when she used to pester you to sit up and stand up straight. Poor posture not only causes the back to bend forward, putting pressure on the discs, but also causes tightness in the hip muscles. This tightness can often cause the pelvis to rotate, causing further back problems. Poor posture often includes rounded shoulders which can lead to shoulder and neck problems as well.
Having strong lower and upper back muscles helps keep the proper curve in your back. A lot of chronic low back pain is due to these muscles being weak. These muscles are often underdeveloped and need to be addressed.
Some situations require mostly strengthening the abdominal muscles more then the back. It is important that both of these muscle groups be strong in order to stabilize and protect the spine. There needs to be a proper balance of abdominal and back strength and flexibility, as well as a balance of the hips, lower legs and upper body.
Proper lifting technique is essential in preventing back problems. Heavy lifting should be avoided, or as a friend to help. When you do bend over to lift something, make sure that you bend at the knees, keeping the back straight. Use your legs to do the work versus your back. You also want to keep the object being lifted close to your body.
Avoid bending over for long periods of time. If you are planting flowers, use a stool or some sort of gardening seat. Also, avoid rounding your back for prolonged periods. If you need to bend over for a period of time, then stand back up and bend slightly backwards a few times. Stop doing this if it causes pain.
When lifting, do not twist the back. When moving an object, move your feet and change directions, do not twist.
It is important that when you lift, you keep your head and shoulders up when the lifting begins. You also need to keep a wide, balanced stance when lifting, with your feet spread apart and put one foot slightly in front of the other.
Along with good posture and mechanics, it is important to be in good physical condition. Whatever the age and activity level you are at, daily activities cause injuries, but good conditioning can prevent them. Seek out the advice from trained professionals about a fitness program that is right for you. These programs should include a flexibility program. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any such program.
Questions/Comments can be faxed to 330-480-2594 or emailed to Hollie_Kozak@HMIS.org
Written by Hollie Kozak, ATC,L. Hollie Kozak is an Ohio Licensed Athletic Trainer trained in the evaluation, prevention and treatment of sports injuries. She is the sports medicine coordinator for a local sports medicine program and has provided athletic training services to various schools. She has her Master’s degree in Education/Sports Medicine and Bachelor’s degree in sports management. July, 2003