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Avoid a strain or sprain with outdoor activites

By, Devin Wurman, DPT

Now that the weather is getting better and we are finally able to say good-bye to winter, more and more of us are planning to spend an increased amount of time outdoors.  This also means that we need to be more cognizant of our bodies when participating in outside activities such as gardening.

Some of the most common injuries that we see in therapy are associated with the knee, shoulder, and/or back. This is either due to overuse or improper lifting techniques.  A great example is when working outside in the yard.  Whether it’s picking up heavy bags of mulch or planting flowers, it is really important to be mindful of your body mechanics as well as repetitive movements.

  • When lifting something, especially heavy, you want to use your leg muscles instead of your back muscles. Squat down to the ground and pick up the item keeping it close to you.  If you need to carry it somewhere then continue to keep it close to your body.  Any time you need to turn with the item, turn your entire body.  You do not want to twist, or bend over at the waist!  This will protect your spine from injury.
  • Take rest breaks when planting flowers and/or using gardening tools to prevent too much soreness in the shoulder. This is in reference to overuse.  Many people spend too much time performing the same task over and over again.  This can put wear and tear on a joint and cause inflammation.  If there was already inflammation in the joint, this will cause significant pain and possible injury to the tendons in the shoulder (i.e rotator cuff.)
  • If you are going to be kneeling down for a period of time, plan on having a pad to provide cushioning under your knees. You will also want to take rest breaks, as being in this position for a long period of time may cause your knees to become stiff and sore.  It is also helpful to do some stretching during the break to decrease the stiffness and soreness.  Two really good stretches are a calf stretch and hamstring stretch.

If you are having discomfort after being outside, put some ice on the area.  Ice will help alleviate the pain as well as decrease any inflammation.  If you have a prior history involving a specific joint/area, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put some ice on it anyway to prevent delayed onset muscle or joint soreness.

As always, if you do experience pain from the above activities that seems to last a couple of days and is not improving, give us a call so we can perform an evaluation.  We can assess the injury and devise a plan to reduce your pain so that you can return to the activities you love.

CLICK HERE for some stretches to try before after you do your next outdoor activity.

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