By: Marcus Walker, DPT
Spring is a time of energy, rejuvenation and budding life — yet also of accidents and injuries, especially in your own yard. In the U.S. alone, one person is injured from an accidental event roughly every second. Come springtime, these common yard work injuries take many forms. From slips or falls to strains, slashes, cuts and burns, nearly all spring yard work injuries are preventable.
Accidents happen, even among the most cautious individuals. If spring yard work accidents are the malady we all wish to avoid, then safety and forethought are the antidotes.
With a little prudence and a lot of care, you can ensure avoiding yard work injuries throughout the spring and beyond with these tips and tools.
Common Yard Work Injuries in Spring
We understand. After being cooped up indoors through long, listless winter months, you can’t help but plan and prep for a new, thriving lawn and garden come spring. You also may be ready to do exterior work on your home itself, from the ornamental and decorative to functional repairs or much-needed makeovers.
Yet folks are most prone to accidents when they rush or underestimate the thoroughness of their yard-work tasks. Ensure you don’t fall prey to the following standard springtime injuries, ranging from the inconvenient to the severe and everything in between.
Common Yard Work Injury: Straining or Pulling Muscles
When it comes to yard work, there are few injuries as prevalent as strained or pulled muscles. Strained muscles don’t discriminate. They affect people of all ages, fitness levels and physical builds, often striking inflexible or improperly stretched muscles groups that displayed no prior signs of rigidity.
For spring yard work, consider all the tasks that require bending, pulling and shifting body positions. From digging new garden beds to clearing and raking debris to pulling weeds to pushing heavy lawnmowers, strained and pulled muscles can occur across the gamut of yard work activities.
The lower and upper back, as well as shoulders and hips, are the most prone to pulls and strains. Listen to your body as you work. Never overexert yourself or rush to get yard work done at the expense of your health. Watch this video for more tips on gardening without the pain.
Common Yard Work Injury: Ladder or Roof Falls
Spring yard or housework often means pulling out the ladder. Correctly using a ladder to clean gutters or prune dead or diseased tree limbs will not only ensure the smooth accomplishment of yard projects but also keep them injury free.
After all, more than 164,000 people are injured from falling off a ladder, with an accompanying and pricey emergency room visit promptly following. Ladder injuries can cause mild to serious problems, such as bruises and broken bones or concussions and spinal damage.
Many people conduct roof work once spring’s warm weather arrives. Whether the job includes clearing debris after a storm or conducting a roofing material maintenance check-up, roofs can be cumbersome to maneuver around for even short periods of time.
Ladder and roof falls are most prevalent when ladders are set up improperly, propped on uneven ground or placed in unstable environments. What’s more, using old or ill-maintained ladders without proper safety features and extensions further encourages an accident to occur. Keep young children out of a fixed ladder’s reach as well so no climbing and goofing around can happen, even on the most secure-seeming ladders.
Common Yard Work Injury: Mower/Tractor Woes
From compact utility tractors to large agricultural units, tractors are another common source of yard work injuries. They’re similar to lawnmowers in that many overlook basic safety and maintenance elements, mainly for personal units used to maintain private, residential acres.
Mower/Tractor injuries include muscle strains, bruises, bone fractures and breaks due to rollovers, collisions or attempting to fix entangled parts. Rollovers account for the majority of mower/tractor-related injuries, occurring when driven in hazardous weather conditions or maneuvered across uneven terrain. When mower/tractor gears, pulleys, chains and other mechanical systems become locked or entangled, many are tempted to solve the problem immediately, whether or not the proper tools and safety gear are available. Hands and fingers can quickly get caught in jerky systems or trapped inside machine parts, leading to further critical injuries.
Common Yard Work Injury: Hedge Clipper Cuts and Slices
Trimming and pruning landscaping is another spring yard necessity. Yet hedge clippers themselves can be sharp and heavy objects with a number of safety concerns during spring use.
From manual clippers to more contemporary battery-powered tools, yards with large bushes and hedges often require a hedge-clipping routine. Cuts and lacerations usually take place when mishandling or losing control over a clipper. This is especially common with older, rusty or poorly maintained trimmers without smooth, even applications or designs that are clunky to handle. Young children are especially prone to clipper cuts, unfamiliar with the tool and its proper handling.
In the most extreme cases, fingers and toes can be severely sliced or even amputated in the event of a hedge trimmer injury. People have lost control over electric or battery-powered clippers and subsequently dropped their tools onto limbs. Still others have been injured due to a device or manufacturing glitch causing the tool to run uncontrollably.
Preventing Common Yard Work Injuries
Avoiding yard work injuries is as much about patience and proactivity as it is common sense. The surest way to prevent injuries when working outside this spring is to take your time with any planned or pop-up projects. Take inventory of tools and equipment. Survey the condition of all manual or battery-powered devices you plan to use, and conduct maintenance on them beforehand. Set up a proper, contained workspace and only go outside in good weather conditions. Most importantly, listen to your body. Fatigue and pains are not signs of weakness or project inconveniences but direct messages from your nerves to lighten it up just a little. You can further prevent yard work injuries by following these safety tips and procedures:
• Take Breaks
There’s no need to strain yourself working out in the yard. Doing so will not only court physical injuries, like knee, wrist or back pain, but also result in mental strain and fatigue, as well. Plus, you’re far less likely to do quality work in your yard if rushed or stressed for time or generally feeling poorly.
Hot or humid spring days, in particular, mean slowing down and planning ahead. It’s your space, and at the end of the day, you’re the boss. Take care not to push yourself to the point of injury.
• Stretch Before and After Yard Work
Long hours weeding and planting garden beds or pushing heavy mowers will take their toll on muscles and joints. The simplest solution? Stretch before heading out and right after you’ve wrapped up.
Stretching does wonders for the body, including preparing it for the movements done while working in the yard and cooling it down once finished. Take care not to stretch for too long, though. Prolonged static stretches, such as those exceeding 60 seconds, can actually pull muscles and increase the likelihood of contractions, strains and tears.
Opt for three rounds of 20-second stretches targeting one or two muscle groups at a time, such as hamstrings, shoulders, hips and the lower back. Increase circulation and loosen hands, wrists and legs by shaking them out leisurely before and periodically during yard work.
• Stay Hydrated
Hydration is always an important part of maintaining good health. However, during the spring and summer while spending time outdoors, it is even more vital to stay hydrated. Health and wellness experts advise that you should drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces daily. This can help you to maintain proper hydration. If you are one who does not prefer water, it might be a good idea to find a flavored water or sports beverage to help you stay hydrated. Keep in mind that when trying to remain properly hydrated, soda is not the best option.
That doesn’t mean to just take a bottle of water out with you and drink it while you work. It also doesn’t mean drinking a bottle of water just before you go out to work (along with the bottle you take out to drink while you work).
It means drinking plenty of water days before you go out to work.
Speaking of water, setting up a mist cooling station in the yard is a great idea. Turning a hose on yourself works, too. Or even using a spray bottle.
By listening to your body, you can prevent dehydration, have more energy for your muscles and prevent injuries.
What To Do in the Event of an Injury
Even with proper care and preparation, injuries happen. Don’t let additional problems compound by ignoring or neglecting pains, cuts or aches if they occur, and never be afraid to consult with your doctor or physical therapist if physical ailments continue.
When it comes to addressing, managing and healing yard work-related injuries, you don’t have to look far. Elite Physical Therapy provides the quality care and knowledge you need in the event of an injury.
We know the toll pain can take on your life. We also know you don’t have to live with it. Elite physical therapists give you the expertise, specialization and attention your injury requires.