It is important to have correct posture and ergonomics when you are performing different tasks, and as a Massage Therapist, I can vouch for the damage that can be done when posture is compromised. Good posture and ergonomics helps prevent you from injuring yourself, “throwing out” your back, and/or experiencing pain. Here are a few tips to help you get through the outdoor yard work this season and save your body in the process.
1. Get to Eye Level
When working below your waist, be sure to squat down to the level you are working at and look with your eyes, avoiding tilting your head. Keeping your spine aligned is important to not put strain on unnecessary muscles. This may help prevent you getting that lower back ache after you have been bending forward for a period of time. By bending your neck forward and always looking down at what you are doing, you are risking pulling on the back of your neck, which is likely to cause some discomfort later on.
2. Keep Your Arms In
When working with your hands and with tools, I recommend keeping your arms closer to your torso, rather than further away. Reaching too far forward or to the left or right may cause a back strain. You can also injury your shoulder or elbow by putting too much force on these joints, rather than using your body weight to help you. For example, when using a shovel to dig holes or when landscaping, try to use your body weight to help with force instead of your arms.
3. Use Legs > Back
Finally, let’s talk about bending down, lifting, or moving things around. It is important to save your back and use your legs. Remember to squat down and keep the object close to your body when you are standing back up or moving it. By squatting down to pick something up, you will save your back. Keeping the object close to your body will ensure that you are using your legs and arms and not pulling on your lower back muscles. If something is too heavy to lift on your own, ask for some assistance or put it in a wheel barrow to transport.
This summer, while you’re out gardening and landscaping, it is important to remember these few tips to minimize your chance of injury. If you feel any pain or discomfort when doing an activity, make sure to stop what you are doing and take a rest. If you are feeling a bit sore from working in the yard, put some ice on the affected area (note: make sure there is a cloth or towel between the ice pack and your skin, leave ice on until it goes through the 4 stages – Cold, Burning, Aching, Numb then remove). At the end of a long day, having an Epsom salt bath might help soothe your muscles from all the work you just did.