Avoiding Injury and Soreness During Fall Activities – Kristin B., PT
As we draw closer to winter weather in the Northern United States, I find that every weekend I am busy with projects at home. I am not alone in this plight. Everyday, I encounter patients who are suffering from injuries or aches and pains from their experiences as weekend warriors. Whether you or your patients are busying yourselves with fall cleaning, raking leaves or cleaning out gutters there are many considerations for maintaining safety and preventing excess soreness.
When completing cleaning tasks, it is important to ensure that you are using proper body mechanics. I have been cleaning out my closet over the past few weeks and found that I was experiencing back pain from bending over folding clothes. By just moving to a higher table, I was able to eliminate the pain that I was experiencing by using the ergonomic advantages that I describe to patients all of the time. Additionally, when moving large items or furniture, it is important to ensure that you are lifting by bending knees and keeping your back straight. I would love to say that as a therapist, I automatically use proper body mechanics all of the time, but often, even therapists need reminders about the importance of these things.
Another activity that can lead to pain or soreness is raking leaves. Though this is a great form of physical activity and exercise, it can lead to pain. Before starting to rake leaves ensure to stretch the muscles of your trunk in all planes (forward/backward, turning right/left and lean side to side). Additionally, while raking leaves, you can decrease the strain on your shoulders and trunk muscles by taking slightly smaller strokes. Finally, ensure that your stretch afterwards. Many people find, that even while following these precautions, raking leaves can be too physically strenuous, so another good recommendation would be investing in a lightweight backpack leaf blower. This will allow you to take care of your leaves without bending, reaching or carrying a heavy leaf blower in an awkward position.
Finally, I would like to mention the number of patients or coworkers who have incurred injuries while climbing ladders or working on roofs to clean out gutters in preparation for winter. It is important to use proper technique and equipment that is in good repair when going onto the roof. It is also very important to ensure that when cleaning out gutters or going on the roof that this task not be completed alone. A second person should be present to hold the ladder, direct the person on the roof and provide an emergency contact provider if there is an accident. I know this may seem unnecessary to state, but I have treated over 15 patients in my career who fell off of roofs and sustained injuries, so please be careful and encourage your patients to do so themselves.