Thankfully it’s finally Spring! So much to do, so little time, back-breaking yard work – it adds up to possible lower back strain, muscle pulls, and joint dysfunctions. Advice: Take it slow and prepare yourself for outside chores with some simple exercises.
Raking requires upper body strength and endurance. Warm up to yard work by exercising your primary muscles that include biceps, deltoids, rotator cuff, forearm and parascapular muscles. Do it before and after raking or lifting piles of yard litter.
Simple exercises like arm circles, pendulums, forearm and upper trap stretching will help loosen these muscle groups. Proper posture while raking is a must. Stay upright, head up, shoulders back and don’t hunch forward. Good postural habits will prevent rotator cuff impingement, strain on neck and upper back and puts the upper body in position for the greatest mechanical advantage to create force and leverage. You’ll also use less energy. Once you’ve got those leaves raked into piles, now comes the real trial. The body’s trunk and core are being tested, requiring the lumbar spine and hips to generate force to move leaf piles. The strain is on your obliques, glutes, and hip rotators along with the lumbar extensor muscles. What that means is there’s a lot of muscle groups interacting to get those leaves moved. Never bend from the waist to pick up these mounting piles of leaves. It is vital to squat and bend your knees while you pick up leaves. Keep a flat back while you lift. This takes the stress off the lower lumbar spine eliminating the possibility of strains and sprains or worse injuries such as herniated discs and sciatica. Helpful, also, are warm up and cool down exercises such as hamstring, knee to chest, and trunk rotation stretches.
“Summerize” your body. Trunk rotation stretches, hamstring stretches, light weight workouts with dumbbells for biceps, triceps and deltoids are important in preventing serious injury. Squats with light barbells for your quads, hamstrings, and glutes strengthen these important stress absorbing muscles. For lower spine and back, prepare yourself with warm up knee to chest exercises, trunk rotations and quad and hamstring stretches. Proper exercise techniques, either at home or with a professional physical therapist or trainer, can keep you fit and in action throughout the spring and summer.
Kyle Branday, MSPT is a licensed physical therapist and partner at Amity Physical Therapy, founded fourteen years ago by Michael Dow MSPT CEO/Director with offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Kyle is a graduate of Quinnipiac University with his Masters in Physical Therapy. He works with patients of all ages and ability levels, treating high level athletes with fractures and sprains to gait and balance dysfunction in the elderly. Kyle can be reached to set up an evaluation at (203) 389-4593 or visit www.amitypt.com.