Whether you're a gardener, yard maintenance buff or someone with a lot of outdoor chores on your to-do list, taking a few precautions can lessen your chances of ending up in pain. Brethren Village Rehabilitation Program Coordinator Kathy Sauer, COTA/L, offers this advice to help you stay safe and minimize your rise of muscle aches and pains.
A slow and steady pace will minimize the chance of pulling a muscle. Muscles don’t respond well to quick or abrupt movements.
Take a few minutes to stretch before starting a chore. Muscles need to be warmed up before putting them to work.
Pay attention to your body’s signals. Stop when the work seems to be getting too hard and stretch at least every half hour.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can be hard on muscles.
Avoid bending from the waist. Instead, bend your hips and knees and keep your back straight. For support, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart.
Move and turn toward your work and use long-handled tools like shovels and rakes to minimize bending and twisting.
Avoid heavy lifting. Please ask someone to help you or use adaptive equipment like a dolly.
Avoid turning or twisting your upper body or shoulders while holding, carrying or lifting something. Place it directly in front of and close to you for the entire lift. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to help.
Make your work easier by using a wheelbarrow, dolly or cart to carry large items. Hand tools should have good grips. Notice how comfortable and secure they feel in your hands, wrists, shoulders and back.
Don’t overdo it. Only tackle chores and projects for short periods of time. And if you begin to feel like it’s all too much, just stop and enjoy the outdoors — without a to-do list.