, Gloucester, MA


April 12, 2013

Don't let cleanup put cramp in life

In many ways, the condition of your yard is a direct reflection of you. It represents your responsibility to your neighbors and the neighborhood and it helps raise the value of your home.

But it doesn’t clean itself, does it?

If you’ve ever made the mistake of not readying your yard for winter, you know just how difficult it can be to make it presentable in the spring. After the winter of 2010-2011, my yard was so badly in shambles I felt like moving to a new house would be easier than cleaning up.

Because optimal yard-work days are few and far between, most of us marathon-clean when the opportunity arises. But beware — long days in the yard are often followed by long days of being laid up on the couch with an injury.

So if you’ve just filled your gas containers, organized the garden shed and stocked up on lawn bags, here are some things to remember to help you avoid getting injured before the season starts.

Setting out lawn and patio furniture may require heavy lifting. Whenever possible, grab an extra set of hands to help with awkward or heavy items. Many hands make a healthy back.

Take breaks frequently. Many injuries result from overly tired muscles. When a muscle fatigues, its ability to stabilize a joint or create enough force to accomplish a routine task diminishes considerably. Short rests rejuvenate strength and endurance while preventing injury as much as any other trick.

Change chores whenever possible. Repetitive activities for prolonged times put fragile structures like the rotator cuff and lumbar discs at high risk for damage. Changing tasks also helps prevent repetitive strain injuries in the hands and elbows.

Weeding is perhaps the most dangerous of all the springtime activities; it has the capacity to put more torque through your low back than almost any other chore done at any time of the year. Try loosening the soil with a spade or shovel beforehand – it weakens the roots and reduces your chances of bulging a disc.

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