If you find yourself sitting at Cupcake Royale gazing at the leaves falling on Madrona Playground you will realize we are heading into autumn. In October we will experience around 13 days of rain and a 10 degree drop in temperature — the largest cooling margin of any month in Seattle. The change of season also means yard chores and leaves are piling up and summer furniture needs to be stored.
Occupational and physical therapists see characteristic injuries this time of year. We see back and neck injuries from carrying lawn chairs and elbow and shoulder tendonitis from raking leaves. These tweaks are usually caused by poor body mechanics and impaired flexibility and strength. You can limit your risk for these injuries by visiting my business, MoveMend, or a rehabilitation clinic near you to address nagging injuries.
Of course, prevention is the best treatment. To avoid straining your precious back, neck and arm muscles during yard work, you should head to City People’s Garden Store and get the right tools for the job. Use a rake comfortable for your height and strength. Wear gardening gloves to prevent blisters. Slip-resistant soles will minimize your risk of taking a spill. Next, warm up for at least 10 minutes by walking around the yard, doing some circular shoulder motions and bending your trunk forward and backward. Pull your shoulders blades back then cross your arms in front of your chest. Perform five repetitions of these motions and then rotate your trunk from side to side for five more repetitions.
Now that the muscles and joints are ready to go, plan on using good body mechanics. Step close to the areas you are raking to avoid overreaching and bending forward. Position yourself as close to the full bag of leaves as possible then squat down to get ahold of it. Always bend at the knees and tighten your abdominals to support your back when moving to standing. Just before lifting something heavy take a deep breath in and exhale through pursed lips as you lift. Let the strong muscles of the legs do more work than the back.
Some landscaping based injuries are the result of overusing one side of the body. Therefore, switch the rake from your right hand to your left every couple of minutes. With a little luck of the weather you may be able to time your chores to a dry day. Managing dry leaves and yard waste — and not overfilling waste bags — will reduce the aches and pains of fall.
Finally, don’t be a weekend warrior when it comes to your yard. Leaves build up, and trying to get all the work done at once is a recipe for injury. Instead, pace yourself and tackle the job in sections. Then celebrate your hard work with a fireside dinner at BluWater Bistro. You deserve it.