When the temperatures start to go up, it’s tempting to jump into yard work or start preparing for a summer sport. While these impulses are healthy, it’s important to ensure your body is ready to go back to physical work after a sedentary winter. Even if you go to the gym regularly, yard work and other springtime activities may work different parts of your body. We often see people in our office with injuries that take them away from work and play they had hoped to do in the warmer months. Luckily, you can avoid this scenario by following a few easy tips.
Here’s how to avoid getting injured as you become more active this spring.
1. Always, Always Warm-Up First
Whether you are shoveling spring snow, working in the garden, or lifting that heavy bag of birdseed, it’s important to warm up first. Every physical activity should be treated as a workout. Start by doing a few warm-up exercises like jumping jacks, shoulder/arm circles, and knee bends. Spend about five minutes warming up and then stretch out. Your muscles will stretch better after a warm-up rather than before.
There are two types of stretches. Dynamic stretches are stretches that include movement. You can get two for one during your warm-up by including exercises such as squats, lunges, and T-push-ups that stretch you and work your muscles. Static stretches are stretches that you hold without moving, usually for 15 to 30 seconds. Always perform static stretches like the hurdler, horizontal arm stretch, and overhead tricep stretch after a set of warm-up exercises and dynamic stretches. Performing static stretches before warming up can cause injury. Take all of your warm-up exercises and stretches slowly and carefully.
After you warm up and stretch, ease into whatever activity you are doing, and make sure to stop if you feel pain. Don’t overwork yourself, and take breaks to rest, stretch and drink water.
2. Build Core Strength
Strong muscles in the torso and back help support the spine and prevent injury. There are multiple ways to self-evaluate your core strength. Verywell fit provides a test on their website. If you can do the exercises listed on the test, you have excellent core strength. If you struggle to do the exercises or can’t finish them, your core strength needs improvement.
You can also ask your chiropractor or personal trainer to help you evaluate your core strength. Once you know where you’re at, you can put together a workout routine to improve. Before beginning a workout routine, people with a very weak core or a prior back injury or surgery should consult a chiropractor, personal trainer, or another professional.
If your core strength needs a little improvement after a sedentary winter try exercises like planks, bicycle sit-ups, reverse sit-ups, bird dogs, or Superman. You can find workout videos and routines online to help you build core strength. Don’t forget to modify these workouts to work for you. You may need to skip certain exercises or perform them differently until you gain strength. As with any exercise routine, proper form is essential for preventing injury. If you have any doubts about your form, ask a professional.
3. Lift and Work with Proper Form
We know you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Improper lifting is one of the leading causes of back injury. Lifting too much weight is a common component of this. According to OSHA, lifting 50 to 100 pounds repeatedly is considered heavy duty work. How much weight you can safely lift depends on your body weight and muscle strength. If you only weigh 140 lbs, you may not be able to lift 100 lbs. When lifting heavy objects, keep this in mind, and don’t try to match someone else’s carrying ability.
When you have to lift anything you find heavy, you need to use proper form. Always bend your knees, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and lift with your knees, not your back. This means using the upward motion from straightening your knees to lift the object. Never twist or turn while lifting or carrying. Use your feet to change direction and lead with your hips, keeping your shoulders in line with your hips. Always carry heavy objects around the level of your belly button and never lift them over your shoulders. When you set down a heavy object, squat down slowly once again using your knees and hips and not your back.
If you know you are about to undertake some heavy yard work, it’s a good idea to refresh your memory on lifting techniques and other proper postures. Remember to keep your back straight and your neck and shoulders in a neutral position while mowing, edging, or using a snowblower. When gardening, don’t bend over too much. It’s better to squat or sit on a low stool or cushion.
4. Create a Safe Environment
Many of us think about safety on the job, but what about at home? Try to think about your yard or other work areas as a job site and provide yourself with the right protective equipment and a safe environment. Keep these things in mind:
- Always wear close-toed, slip-resistant shoes.
- Avoid leaving equipment where you could trip on it, and clean up spills right away.
- Read safety manuals before operating or maintaining equipment.
- Wear goggles or safety glasses when operating saws, handling caustic chemicals, or in any other situation where debris could get in your eyes.
- Wear gloves when gardening or handling dangerous objects or chemicals
- Use ear protection around loud equipment.
- Use common sense, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Not following these tips could lead to a wrenched back or shoulder from a slip and fall or a trip to the emergency room for a variety of other possible injuries. It’s well worth a little thought beforehand to avoid these scenarios.
Back Injury Treatment in Kentucky
Do you have a back injury that’s preventing you from getting your springtime to-do’s done? At All Star Chiropractic, we help people heal from back pain and return to the activities they love. Schedule a consultation to find out how our state-of-the-art treatments can help you heal.