Yardwork vs. Your Back
Amy Gamerdinger Jeffers, DC, CACCP
This time of year many people are getting gardens ready, raking and and mowing, but that can lead to new aches and pains. Here are some reminders to keep you feeling your best:
Kneeling down to dig in the dirt can cause knee and back pain. Using a kneeling pad or garden chair to take pressure off of knees can help reduce your risk of knee pain and inflammation. Kneeling repetitively can lead to conditions like a Baker's Cyst, which is a fluid filled sac that can appear on the back of the knee. It can limit range of motion and cause pain. When digging and planting, be sure to watch your low back to avoid extended flexing forward that can promote strains of the lower back.
When you are getting ready to rake, treat it as an athletic event! Warm up the low back using a hot pack for 15 minutes, fast vibration using a massage gun or vibration ball, or by doing gentle rotations of the trunk. While raking avoid pulling and twisting or lifting upward and twisting which can cause shear force on the intervertebral discs of the lower back. When you are ready to pick up what you've, raked avoid lifting and twisting, instead, bend your knees, pick up the material and rotate your whole body to move the debris. If you are prone to low back pain or have a history of degeneration in the lumbar spine, wearing a low back support when you are doing more strenuous activity can help reduce strain.
Similarly, when you are getting ready to mow your lawn, warm up your back. If your mower has an adjustable handle, lower it, so that you aren't having to elevate your shoulders. Having the arms come straight our from the shoulders, helps to keep your trapezius muscle and levator at a relaxed state, reducing your potential for numbness and tingling down the arms and neck pain. Using a self propelled mower can help reduce forces pulling on the lower back.
After doing yardwork, make sure you are staying hydrated. Dehydration can lead to muscle spasms. If you are feeling tightness, magnesium acts as a natural muscle relaxant. It can be taken orally, sprayed on or you can soak in a bathtub with Epsom salt, which also contains magnesium. Using a massage gun or vibration ball at lower speeds can help reduce delayed onset soreness. Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help with range of motion and prevent injury as well as reduce pain and with recovery afterward.