Your Guide to Pain-Free Yard Work

  • August 2, 2018

It’s a thing here in the Pacific Northwest, our gardens sit dormant 8 months a year then BAM! It’s a summer marathon of weeding, mowing, and trimming.

It’s also a classic time for us to hear “I overdid it gardening…” in the clinic.

Back pain in particular can strike anyone after a few hours of lawn grooming. Fortunately there are a couple of simple changes you can make to decrease discomfort and increase productivity!

  1. Get On the Ground!

The number one culprit for back pain is the constant bending over. When you’re weeding, pulling, planting, etc. it is much better on your back to kneel or sit on the ground instead of leaning over. I know it seems more laborious to get on and off the ground, but all that time spent in a bent position can be really hard on your spine. Even if you’ve never had back pain, you might after 4 long hours like quasimoto!

Tip: Gardening pads are made to kneel on outside without breaking down.

  1. Take Breaks

It’s easy to get into a groove with yard work, you’re making headway, checking things off the list and before you know it 3 hours have gone by! While I appreciate that army of dandelions invading your yard MUST be stopped, your body needs a break! When was the last time you did yard work for 3 hours? Unless the answer is “every weekend for the past 3 months Brittney!”, you need to take it slow. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training and expect your body not to hurt, would you? So do an hour, take a 10 minute break then get back to it. I promise there will *always* be more work to do, no need to rush.

Tip: set an alarm on your phone to signal breaks; it’s a great time to drink some water too!

  1. Variety

Our bodies crave variety of movement. Repetition of any movement can reach a peak point where it becomes harmful to our musculoskeletal system.

Particularly movements that are new or rarely used have a smaller threshold between productive and destructive. Things like reaching overhead to prune trees, bending over pulling weeds, and shoveling the same direction can all fall into this category.

Do you have to change tasks every 10 minutes to avoid this? No! It can be as simple as switching hands, changing positions, and moving in a slightly different way. If you only use your right hand to pull 180 weeds, don’t be shocked if your shoulder is sore. Dividing up the work between both hands decreases the amount of reps and lowers your risk of an overuse injury.

Switch the direction you throw dirt when shoveling, sit/kneel/stand when weeding, get a step stool for pruning, etc.

Tip: it’s not easy, but use your non-dominant hand for (non-dangerous) chores on a regular basis. It’s only a matter of practice (think about typing) and your brain creates new neural connections when you learn a new skill.

  1. The Right Tools

Experts in any field will tell you the same thing: you can’t do a great job with the wrong tools. While many of us are not dreaming about the new rake we bought this year, having a good set of tools in the yard is critical.

Companies make these tools with one objective in mind: make the chore faster and easier on the consumer.

I’ll tell you from experience, they work. You don’t realize how hard you were working until it suddenly becomes easier. A well shaped shovel, long handled weeding tools, and sharp pruning shears can cut your work time significantly. Why make things harder on yourself?

Tip: Look for end of season sales on great tools at your local hardware store. The end of summer is prime time for shopping!

I hope these tips and tricks will help keep you moving pain free this summer!

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