Don't hurt your back!

An occupational therapist explains the right way to do yard work

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Are you ready to tackle the yard work? Before you grab the rakes, shovels and lawnmowers, understand that even the simplest task can cause an injury if you don't do it correctly. Mike Milicia, an occupational therapist at Cleveland Clinic, says people often hurt their backs doing yard work.

"So, it's the highly repetitive flexion, rotation, patterns that are thought to be aggravators of both the soft tissue, the muscles and ligaments of the back, as well as aggravating the discs," he said.

Milicia says raking and shoveling can be hard on your back because things like mulch and topsoil can be heavy, especially if it's wet. So, Milicia says when you're lifting and moving material, use a "lunge-type" movement, lift with your legs, and keep your back as upright as possible.

"So, if I was picking up material here I'd be lunging to get the material onto the tool, squatting to lift with my legs, and then I am going to place the material where I need to place it," he explained.

If you're digging a hole, try to keep your body upright to get more force on the shovel, and then lift with your legs. Milicia says the other thing to think about when it comes to things like rakes, shovels and even weedwackers is the length of the
handle - longer is better.

"I'm moving at my hips, rather than my waist," Milicia explained. "I'm letting the length of the tool do the work. There is no need for me to have to go to the ground. The tool is long enough to reach the ground. I just need to be cognizant that my back is upright as I am doing that."

Sometimes people may get lazy while pushing the lawnmower and bend over, but Milicia recommends staying upright to avoid injury.

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