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Spring cleaning and your aching body

It seems like only last week we were engaged in the tasks of autumn, picking up leaves and preparing our yards for the long winter ahead. Regardless of how well you may have done in the fall, and no matter how many hours you may have logged in that yard, yep, you’re going to do it all over again. Spring clean-up! Uhg!

Undoubtedly, regardless of your fitness level you will likely be sore and fatigued from the weekend of spring clean-up ahead. Preparation, injury prevention and using your head are the keys to having a productive weekend in the yard while not moving through the following week in serious pain.

Injuries resulting from overexertion while lifting, pushing and pulling, are among the most frequent types of injury in the home. These kinds of injuries, along with accidental slips, trips and falls can result in sprains, strains, hernias and lower back pain. In order to avoid these common injuries, preparation for your tasks and planning for safety is most useful.

Here are some useful tips that may allow you to complete your chore of spring clean-up in conjunction with good aerobic and safe activity:

  • Warm-up before yard work: Gardening and yard work forces you to use virtually every muscle in the human body. Always begin with some trunk forward and backward bending, arm circles and gentle leg stretching. Walk for a few minutes to promote circulation. 10 minutes of total warm-up should be sufficient to prevent strains and soreness later.
  • Maintain ‘Good Posture’. Try to keep a wide BoS (Base of Support) while you stand still and move around during raking. Hold the rake near the end with one hand, and about two-thirds down with the other hand. By standing up straight and moving your arms together with proper spacing will place your body in a mechanical adventitious position while pushing and pulling leaves. Thus, making it easier for you to move the pile.
  • Avoid Twisting. Use your legs to shift your weight side-to-side instead both while raking, thatching or bending to pick up twigs, sticks and leaves.
  • Lift heavy loads properly. Always bend your knees and use your legs to lift your body up. Use large muscle groups to lower your body towards the ground by hinging at eh knees. Instead of reaching forward to move a heavy object, walk to it, get close and lift it straight up off the ground by bending your knees and keeping your spine upright. Don’t lift with your back.
  • Avoid bending over a lot. Kneeling is always better than bending over for long periods. Try knee pads to protect your knees from dirt or soreness. If you’re weeding, try sitting on a bucket to keep your body at an angle to support your back. If you’re shoveling, place the tool directly in front of you, parallel to your hip bones.
  • Be Smart. Work in the yard when it is dry whenever possible. Don’t overfill bags or tarps. Use a wheelbarrow to move heavy bags to other areas of the yard if you cannot easily drag them.
  • Wear proper shoes with skid resistant soles if possible to ensure good footing on uneven ground.
  • Pace and Hydrate as needed, take rest breaks every half-hour or so, and stretch any muscles that seem to be tightening up as you clean. Pace yourself and do what you can without over doing it. There is always tomorrow.
  • Cool down. When you're done working, do some more stretching to help relax tense muscles. You can even take a hot bath.
  • Don’t overdo it: Avoid straining muscles by rotating tasks to avoid repetitive movements. After 15 minutes of raking, change to pruning or mowing. Space out gardening tasks over several days.Finally, listen to your body. Soreness is common following typical yard work. But the soreness you feel should go away about 24-48 hours after your workout. If you notice any of the following symptoms, and they don't go away, see your doctor: lightheadedness, shortness of breath, sudden, severe headache, excess sweating that's out of proportion to your level of exertion, chest or stomach pain.
Poor physical condition, poor posture, lack of exercise, and excessive body weight contribute to the number and severity of sprains and strains. So do your best to take good care of yourself throughout the year.

Prevention of an injury is much easier than repairing one. Listen to your body! Stop if you feel pain and consult your physician if necessary.

Now take it inside and get to those windows…..Uhg!

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