Save your back! Gardening and landscaping tips

The other day my friend asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping
him with some landscaping help in his neighbor’s back yard. I thought to myself
that of course I wouldn’t mind helping, I would be out in the sun, helping some
nice people out, and getting in a little workout at the same time. Well, that
“little” workout I thought it was going to be turned out to be a “big, long 5
hour event type workout.” The next day I was so surprised to feel that my whole
body was sore, including my back, legs, arms, and shoulders. You name it, it
was sore, and I am someone who regularly attends the gym.   I realized it wasn’t so much the work that made me sore, it was my own fault coming into the situation so naive. I really
didn’t think about the way I was lifting, how I was going about the work, etc.  So I thought some useful tips that I should have used would help save both pain and injury to someone else.

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Plan ahead: It is
extremely important to recognize the task you are doing ahead of time. Having a
plan of attack ahead of time can save both time and energy. It can provide you
time to clear any certain paths that you may need as well prevent any unwanted
twisting or awkward posture during carrying and moving. Also, if you are
working with a team make sure everyone is on the same page before carrying on.

Lift objects
NEVER LIFT WITH JUST YOUR BACK! All too often people injure their
back that could have been prevented by one or two tips. Here is the correct way
to go about lifting objects of the ground:

Get as close to the object as
possible: This decreases the stress on the lower back as well makes your lift
more stable.

Keep your feet shoulder width
apart: This gives you a strong, stable base to perform your lift because too
narrow of a stance with make you unstable and too wide of a stance prevents
necessary movement.

Bend your knees and keep your back
straight: This will decrease stress on your lower back and give you the power
to lift your object through your legs. It is also important to tighten your
stomach by drawing in your belly button which helps keep your back neutral to
prevent any injuries.

Lift with your legs: Your legs are
a very powerful muscle group and can take on a greater force with less wear and
tear than your lower back can. Focus on pushing up through your heels and
keeping your feet flat the whole time.

Don’t twist and bend!:
Caution: twisting and bending can cause serious damage to your lower back
due to the excessive strain it puts on the discs and soft tissues in your spine.  If you need to move something that you would
think requires twisting and bending, lift it and then turn your whole body,
moving your feet.  This takes the
pressure off your discs, making them less likely to herniate.

If you’re straining,
get help:
If the object is too heavy or bulky and you feel yourself
straining too hard, don’t lift it by yourself. It is better to ask for help
from someone else that give yourself an injury that you really don’t need.

Don’t hold your
Holding your breath while performing a lift can have serious side
effects. First, it makes your blood pressure sky rocket. This can cause
significant blood vessel damage, especially in those who have serious
heart/artery problems already. Second, it cuts off blood supply coming back up
from your legs. This decreases the amount of blood returning to the heart and
brain and can cause you to pass out during a lift. Lastly, tensing of tissues
around the abdominal/groin for an extended time places you at risk for a
herniation, in which an organ protrudes the cavity that is protecting it.

Keep your eyes up: Your
eyes determining the orientation of your neck, which determines the orientation
of the rest of your spine. By looking a little more upward you are keeping your
neck are a more neutral position, thus saving yourself from strain on your
spine and musculature.

Don’t be afraid to
use a stool: 
Most people stand and
bend at the waist in order to do a ‘little gardening’.  But a ‘little gardening’ i.e. pulling a few
weeds can turn into 10 minutes or more of work.
During those 10 minutes you have been herniating your disc the whole
time.  Have a small stool that is accessible
so you can use it to sit down on and you don’t always have to sit on the
ground.  Have it handy for even those
small jobs, that way you won’t have to bend over placing a lot of pressure on
your discs. 

Hopefully these simple tips prevent both near and future
injuries during your work or any recreational activities!

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