As summer draws to a close, it won’t be long before many of us close down the old summer cottage for the winter. This can include many strenuous activities like putting boats or canoes away, bringing in docks, moving appliances to weatherproof them, swapping out screens for glass windows, etc. What may have taken an entire to summer to set up may get taken down in a single weekend or single day. Depending on your level of fitness, this can easily lead to overuse or injury, especially if you get fatigued.
Here are some tips to keep you injury free. Go for a short walk and move your spine and extremities through their ranges of motion to warm up. It may seem hokey to warm up before performing manual labor but it can often be as strenuous, or more, than athletic activities. Identify the most strenuous tasks and do them early (but not first thing in the morning!) before you’ve had a chance to fatigue. When lifting heavy items from the floor or ground, the common advice is to “lift with your legs and keep your back straight.” Often this is easier said than done. As you squat down, don’t allow your knees to move beyond your toes and make sure they travel directly over your feet (not to the inside or outside of the knees). Try to get your rear end as low as possible, while pushing it out behind you so you maintain a slight arch in your back as opposed to allowing it to round. Keep what you are lifting as close to you as you can and move your feet to turn rather than rotating your spine. And, it’s not a character flaw to ask for help when lifting awkward or heavy items.
If you need to spend significant time reaching for, or manipulating, objects overhead, use stepstools or ladders as needed so you’re working more at eye level or below rather than pinching and grinding the soft tissues in your shoulders.
Despite your best efforts, you may be sore for a few days. This could be normal muscular soreness. If pain persists for more than that, come in to see us for a free screen or evaluation so the problem does not become chronic.
written by Tom Fontana, MSPT