As the weather turns warmer, it’s common to dig up last summer’s “to do” list. All of those chores and home repairs that we put off a year ago now seem less onerous. As the snow melts, our energy is renewed, and we roll up our sleeves with a new sense of purpose. “This year,” we tell ourselves, “I’m going to get it all done right away so I can enjoy my summer.”
While that kind of vigor is admirable, it can also lead us to overestimate our physical capabilities. Every spring, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers around the country find themselves in medical facilities like Valley Bone & Joint Clinic, explaining an injury to an orthopedic specialist. Fair-weather sports are a huge cause of bone and joint injuries, but backyard injuries aren’t far behind. If you plan on tackling yard work and home improvements this spring, it pays to take precautions. Here are some of the most common problems and how you can minimize your risk for orthopedic injury.
It might seem obvious that work on ladders requires extra care, but garages across the country are filled with rickety, old stepladders that should have been retired decades ago. Replace these dangerous old models with newer, safer ones. Falls from ladders are a common cause of broken bones and other orthopedic injuries, but improving their safety is relatively easy. Make sure your ladder is on a level surface. Don’t overextend yourself, but use the lowest rung necessary. Never, ever use two ladders together (YouTube is full of comedic examples of this, but the videographer never follows the victim to the emergency room). Finally, get help whenever you can. Ladders are sturdier if someone else is holding them steady.
We often relate back problems with shoveling snow, but soil and sod can be just as heavy. Landscaping takes a lot of effort, and it isn’t uncommon to pull a muscle or pinch a nerve as you beautify your backyard. You don’t need to be an athlete to injure your knee or ankle. Uneven ground or slippery, wet conditions can cause the same kinds of problems. Even the repetitive act of kneeling and standing up can be hazardous – especially for men and women over the age of 40. The key is to take a deliberate pace and recruit help for big jobs. It’s also important to use the right equipment: Seek out wheel barrows, shovels and other tools that minimize the wear and tear on your muscles and joints.
Painting, gardening, hammering – even climbing stairs, repeating the same motion over and over again can cause significant problems with our joints over time. Rotator cuff tears, for example, are common in middle-aged people who repeatedly use their shoulders and arms in the same manner. Pay attention to the warning signs here. These injuries may not come with acute pain until the damage is already done. While many of these injuries can be addressed by a surgeon, it is always preferred to avoid them all together.
Avoiding Injuries And When To Call The Doctor
Does this mean we should put that DIY list back in the drawer? Not at all! Just like an athlete prepares for competition, you simply need to get ready for your chores. Stretching is always a good start. Ask your doctor for advice here. Everything from shoulder rolls to quad stretches can get you warmed up. You also need to spend some time getting the right equipment. You may need to retire a few of the older, less effective tools in your shed. Take breaks and rest your muscles often. You don’t need to do all your projects at one time.
Finally, if you experience muscle or joint discomfort that doesn’t improve and won’t seem to go away, call your doctor. It may seem noble to soldier on through an injury, but the truth is that it can make a small problem a lot bigger. If you need specialized help with an orthopedic injury, tell your physician you’d like to work with the team at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic. Not only are the doctors there experienced in helping those with muscle and joint pain, they’re local residents themselves. They can sympathize with your story about working in the yard because on Saturday afternoon they’re doing the same thing themselves.
This spring, don’t let DIY projects hurt your summer plans. Take the time to get them done the right way, and even your chores will seem like less work.