How to keep your back safe during fall cleanup chores
Fall chores can take a heavy toll on our backs. Whether we’re raking and bagging leaves, replacing screens with storms, or hauling patio furniture into the garage, danger lurks in common places.
In fact, up to 90% of U.S. adults experience back pain at some point in their lives.
“Typically, these injuries can be treated with physical therapy, occasional chiropractic manipulation, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and just the tincture of time. These injuries are usually caused by improper lifting or carrying techniques.”
This time of year, that’s exactly what can happen when we haul one too many heavy bags of leaves out of the yard.
Save your back: Think like a box!
Dr. Luszczyk suggests adopting an image of our core as a box with the periphery of this box including the tops of our shoulders, bottom of our waists, and sides of our chest and abdomen.
If we can perform the majority of our activities and work duties within the confines of this theoretical space without repetitive bending or twisting, we can dramatically decrease the incidence of unnecessary and unwanted injury.
Dr. Luszczyk’s lifting and carrying tips
- To lift and carry an object, face it before grasping it. Keep the object within the confines of your body’s box.
- To reach something overhead, use a step stool. This keeps it within the confines of the box.
- Similarly, if an object is on the floor or on the ground, bend at the knees to face, grasp, and lift it. This evenly distributes the weight of the object, making it much safer to lift.
- Finally, be sure to hold objects close to your body’s box when lifting them. When holding them at arm’s length, you put more stress on your core muscles and run the risk of low back strain and potential injury to your spine.
Exercise, rest also important
Dr. Luszczyk says moderate exercise, followed by rest, will help keep muscles and skeletal structure strong.
“The key is to be moderate,” he says. “Don’t run daily marathons or engage in repetitive, high-impact sports constantly.
“Rest is also important. We need to give our bodies time to heal and build muscle. When we are overaggressive in our exercise routines, we subject our bodies to more strain and higher incidences of injury.”
And if we do hurt ourselves?
Most of us will sustain a minor injury at some point in our lives. Typically it can be managed conservatively with anti-inflammatory medications and time. Dr. Luszczyk warns, however, that some symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor right away.
“If you start to feel numbness or shooting pains down your legs or in your arms – especially associated with some neck or low back pain, call your doctor,” he says. “It could be a sign of a possible pinched nerve.
“ORA provides many orthopedic centers of excellence, from spine to shoulder and elbow,” he says. “ORA Orthopedics’ Spine Center offers surgical and nonsurgical treatment for back pain and neck pain, and injuries and disorders.
“We pride ourselves on providing our patients and community with the best orthopedic care available in the Quad City area.”