Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekend warriors beware

Getting in shape for weekend work or play ...

"Attention yard work weekend warriors! Your home improvement lists are growing. Spending several hours in the yard mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, or weeding the garden or flower beds can lead to soreness if special care is not taken to attend to your muscles and your posture.

Back, neck and shoulder pain, arm and knee ache, or general body soreness from too much aggressive yard work or house work can lead many people to their doctors with preventable overuse injuries.

Overuse injuries can be avoided when we follow these basic steps:

* Keep your body flexible
* Maintain good core strength and fitness
* Use larger muscle groups for lifting heavy loads
* Use proper body mechanics

Keeping muscles flexible and maintaining good hydration will help to allow your body to be limber enough to do yard work. Yard work requires bending, stretching and moving in multiple directions. Daily routines may not require our bodies to move in the same ways that we need our bodies to move when we are doing yard work. Proper muscle elasticity will allow for more efficient muscle work during the intended activity, with less risk of injury.

Maintaining good core strength will help to prevent overuse injuries. Specifically, if we can keep our trunk muscles, abdominals, hips and thighs strong, we can utilize these powerful muscle groups to do the heavy work that yard work and house-related projects require. Keeping these core muscles strong will also help to reduce the risk of injury along the spine.

The use of faulty body mechanics might be the single largest culprit to causing injury from chores such as raking, gardening and painting. Using proper body mechanics will dramatically reduce the risk of injury. There are several lines of specialty tools made with the sole purpose of promoting proper ergonomics. Most gardening and hardware stores sell these types of tools to allow work to be more efficient on our bodies. When in doubt, just ask for assistance from a knowledgeable sales clerk.

Using large muscle groups for lifting and for repetitive activities is more ideal than using smaller, weaker muscles that are more susceptible to injury. For example, many people will lift using weak back muscles or weak leg muscles. Encouraging better levels of fitness so that the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals are stronger and able to lift the load to do more optimal work is the ideal situation. Similarly, the small muscles around the wrist, which are subject to overuse injury, may be strained in gardening and weeding. This can be avoided by using a stable wrist and the biceps or triceps muscles plus proper technique. This is ideally where an ergonomically fit gardening tool would come in handy."    (Continued via The MetroWest Daily News)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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