It’s time to throw away the winter doldrums and embrace the warmth and glorious sun that comes with spring in Wisconsin!!!! For many of us, it’s to dust off the lawnmower and shovel, and start cleaning up the yard and garden. To avoid injury, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when starting your spring yard projects. Therapists at Freedom Physical Therapy Services recommend you start with a few questions before you get started:

How much do I need to get done?

Make a list of important tasks, and decide if you can accomplish them. Do you have the tools, what about the physical ability? If you can’t or you’re not sure, then maybe consider getting help from a professional or someone at home (isn’t that what those kids were for?)

When does it have to be done?

During the first nice weekend of spring, there is often a mad dash to get everything done in two days or less, and then spend the next weeks suffering. Before this happens to you, ask yourself what tasks can wait. Prioritize items that need to be done first, and save those items that aren’t as time sensitive for later, your body will thank you.

What has my activity level been all winter?

If you haven’t been very active all winter long, then it’s definitely unwise to try and complete ALL of your landscaping and gardening in one weekend. Just like any activity, it’s important to warm up and train! Gardening requires your muscles to work differently than they’re used to, which is especially difficult if you’ve been sedentary all winter. Better to ease in and allow the body to adjust, than push through and get an overuse injury.

If you think you’re ready to handle yard tasks, then try to keep these tips in mind:

  • Take frequent breaks, which eases tension and prevents small issues from growing
  • Know your limits—don’t be afraid to ask for help, enlist the kids, or pay someone to do the heavy or most tedious tasks to save the wear and tear on yourself
  • Select the correct tool and body position for each task
    • Hand tools versus long handled tools—hand tools should be used for only small tasks or tasks where you’re already close to the ground (sitting, kneeling squatting.) Large tasks or standing tasks should be done with long handled
    • Keep your wrists as straight as possible to prevent strain while using tools, or consider using an ergonomic tool that does the work for you
  • Use your big muscles to do the most work (if lifting a shovel with dirt, don’t bend at your back but squat and use your large leg muscles to lift)

Still wondering if you should do that yard project, or already injured? Consider a visit with Freedom specialists, to teach you how to prevent injury, help you train to tackle those projects, or eliminate the pains you may have already have.

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Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
PT, DPT, CMTPT
Colin O'Brien is a doctor of physical therapy working at Freedom Physical Therapy Services in WI. He specializes in orthopedic care, dry needling, sports medicine and vestibular and balance.