In your neighborhood, leaves have probably turned gold and red, the weather has cooled down, and homeowners’ thoughts have turned to outdoor cleanup. But hauling out leaf blowers, ladders, mowers, and rakes–not to mention using them–opens us up to the possibility of pain and injury.
Typical fall cleanup tasks such as raking, pruning, and cleaning gutters can cause back pain, muscle strain, repetitive motion injuries, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as other injuries and accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 42 million people seek emergency room treatment for yard work-related injuries each year.
Lou Paradise, pain management expert and president and chief of research at Topical BioMedics, offers the following seven safety tips to add to your autumn cleanup checklist:
1. Warm Up, Cool Down, and Take Breaks
Walk and stretch before you exert yourself. This helps prevent your shoulders, neck, and back from being strained. When you’re finished with your chores, gentle stretches will help relieve muscle tension. Take periodic breaks to stretch your muscles and drink water to stay hydrated.
2. Dress Appropriately
Lightweight, natural fibers provide warmth without trapping sweat, and long-sleeved shirts and long pants protect skin from bugs, scratches, and sun. Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles to prevent injuries and minimize the risk of falling.
3. Choose Proper Accessories
Wear safety glasses to keep eyes protected from flying dirt and debris; earmuffs, a hard hat, and a steel mesh face visor when using a chainsaw; and gloves and a facemask when handling chemicals (such as lawn fertilizer and insect poison). Be sure to keep toxins away from children and pets.
4. find the Right Equipment
For example, use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength, and look for ergonomic handles. If the rake handle isn’t padded, wear gloves to prevent blisters.
5. Use Proper Posture and Movements
There’s a tendency to favor our dominant arm when doing yard work, which is a habit to avoid. Make sure to switch arms often so you’ll work the muscles on both sides of your body equally and prevent overworking certain muscle groups. When picking items up, bend at the knees, not the waist. Vary your movements and alternate your leg and arm position.
6. Don’t Overload Yourself
Do not overfill leaf bags, and remember wet leaves are especially heavy. To avoid injury, you should be able to handle bags comfortably, without straining.
7. Climb Ladders Carefully
Make sure your ladder is in good repair with no loose hinges, rungs, or screws. Place it on a firm, level surface and check to be sure it’s fully open and locked. When climbing, wear shoes with nonslip soles and ask someone to hold the ladder in place. Always face toward it when climbing and descending, and never sit or stand above the level indicated by the manufacturer.
Once you’re done with your fall cleanup, see your massage therapist to help identify and work out any sore spots. Communicate what you were working on, what movements you made, and where you’re sore, so your body can feel as good as your yard looks.
This feature is provided courtesy of Topical BioMedics, home of Topricin Pain Relief and Healing Cream. For more information, visit www.topricin.com.