Stay Injury-Free This Fall

Person picking up fall leaves and putting them into a b

By: Tina Keppy, PT, MPT, RN

As the weather changes, fall yard work begins - and so do your chances of physical injury associated with this work. Many injuries which occur as a result of raking or picking up sticks are preventable. Here are some tips and tricks to stay healthy while working in your yard this fall.

Use your legs, not your back.

You may have heard this tip many times, but do you know how to implement this concept? Many people put large force on their knees or accidentally do a great deal of backward bending, which may result in knee or back pain.

To avoid this, when using your legs, make sure your arms are like a T-Rex: short, stubby, useless. Use large powerful legs to begin movement and keep your elbows by your side. Be sure to step to and from areas that you are working to avoid backward bending.

If bending, use the “golfer’s technique".

Many fall yard activities, like picking up sticks, require bending forward and twisting. This can be dangerous. Bending forward while twisting is the ONLY way a disc will herniate.

To protect your back, try using the golfer’s technique to pick something up. Imagine that you are picking up a golf ball out of a hole. Do not bend your legs, simply lean forward and lift one leg off the ground behind you. Your opposite hip bends and your body becomes almost parallel to the ground. Reach one arm down to do the picking up and place the other hand on a stationary object for support, such as a tree or the top of a rake.

This is a safe bending technique as lifting your back leg allows the spine to stay straight and the counter balance offsets the strain on your back.

Start in a squatting position.

Before picking something up from a squatting position, use your arms to rest your upper back completely on your legs, then engage your legs by pushing your feet into the ground. This activates the large muscles in your legs instead of the low back. Keep your legs pushing into the ground and shift your weight from side to side. Use your “T-Rex” short, stubby arms to collect items from the ground.

A key is to always start the activity with your legs and let your arms follow.  Your thighs and buttocks muscles should be really tired after working outdoors, not your back and arms.  If this is not true, you are at risk for back injury. 

We're here to help.

We know that injuries happen, and when they do, Broadlawns Physical and Occupational Therapy is here to provide you with a personalized treatment plan for your specific condition. A wide variety of physical therapy services are available at the Broadlawns Main Campus, East University Clinic and Cityville Clinic.  In each session, a therapist will work with you one-on-one. Our priority is for you to feel comfortable and confident during your treatment.

Our therapists have worked with athletes of all kinds: Olympic, Professional, Division I, as well as weekend warriors, including parents of young children.

To schedule an appointment, call (515) 282-5621. All insurances are accepted.