As the leaves fall this autumn and the chore list piles up to get your home ready for the cold months ahead, one thing many don’t think about is the physical toll winterizing a home can take on your body. Inevitably, with the colder months approaching fast we see more and more preventable injuries at OPTI. Prevention is such a large part of what we help our patients with in the recovery process, and we have many helpful tips as you set out to complete your chore list this autumn:
Before the worst of the cold snap sets in, many clean out their gutters to prepare for the ice and snow. From the physical therapy side, we see many ankle, wrist, and hip injury patients as a result of people falling off ladders, roofs, or grabbing on to a gutter that gives way. Some easy safety tips to prevent injuries cleaning gutters:
- Use a clean, dry ladder set up on firm ground. Have someone hold the bottom of the ladder for extra safety and certainty.
- Wear gloves to maximize grip and protect hands from injuries.
- Have someone nearby to hand you tools, hold the hose, and help if necessary.
This one may come as a surprise, but even seemingly harmless tasks like raking up leaves can result in injury. Save your back with these tips:
- Warm up your body before beginning, just as you would with exercise. Warming up muscles in the back, hips, and torso will improve circulation and flexibility, preventing injury.
- Get the rake that is right for you. Using a rake with a handle that is too short can cause unnecessary strain on the back, hips, and torso.
- Take breaks when you need it, or break the task up into smaller jobs if you have a very large area to clear.
- Keep the rake close to your body, and switch hands often to prevent one side of your body from becoming more strained.
- When lifting large bags of leaves, bend with the knees and hips while keeping your back in a straight, upright position.
Need to climb up on the roof but want to do it safely? Follow this advice:
- Choose the correct ladder: for second story homes us an extension ladder, for first story use a stepladder on solid (and level) ground. Have someone hold the ladder and spot you.
- Never use or step above the second to last rung on the ladder.
- Consider using a roof harness.
- Consider weather conditions before heading up: work on the roof on a clear, dry day with good visibility.
Fall is not too early to prepare for icy conditions in our area. With freezing temperatures comes frozen sidewalks and driveway, and the inevitable trip to the store for ice melt.
- Lift with the hips and legs, never the back when picking up a large bag or package.
- When spreading ice melt, don’t bend with your back. Keeping your back straight and core engaged, bend at the hips.
- Be constantly aware of your surroundings, treading carefully and wearing shoes with good grip to prevent slipping.
Speaking of ice, falls are always something we teach our patients how to avoid. We see an uptick in fall injuries as weather gets colder, outdoor tasks get heavier, and streets and sidewalks get icy. Our top ways to prevent falls:
- Wear the right shoes! Look for shoes that have good tread and grip and make sure they are tied all the way.
- Work on strength and balance. a strong, flexible body will greatly reduce the likelihood for falls, especially falls resulting in injury.
- Consider using helpful tools such as a cane or walker for added safety.
Fall Yard Maintenance
Trimming trees, cleaning up debris, or moving outdoor furniture can be sneaky culprits for injury. Don’t let an injury sneak up on you with these tips:
- As always, lift safely with your legs and not your back. If something is too awkward or heavy to safely lift by yourself, wait for help.
- When using equipment like a chainsaw, keep your core engaged and the equipment close to your body. Reaching away from your body, especially with heavy equipment in hand can strain the back, neck, or shoulders as well as instability.
- Always use recommended safety measures and equipment.
Use the Right Tools for The Job
Consider upgrading to tools that make heavy labor jobs easier and safer. Maybe this is the year to get a leaf blower as you remember the back pain that always sets in around this time. Start saving up for a snow blower to make the upcoming months easier on your body. Using safe, effective, and easy tools can greatly reduce the chance of injury. Come to think of it, so does finally taking the neighbor kid up on his offer to clean up leaves for you!
Maintain Equipment or Tools Properly
Rake has a broken handle? Time for a new one. Maintain equipment well and replace missing or faulty parts before you set to work to prevent injury and save time.
Get a Check Up
Fall is a great time to check in with your doctor and get a clean bill of health before the holiday season. Facing an orthopedic injury? Schedule with our team of Orthopedic Surgeons and specialists at OSSM, or walk in to our Urgent Care to get checked out.
Schedule with OPTI
Whether you are trying to tune up your body, help an old injury, or are in the active stages of recovery, our team of Physical and Occupational Therapists is just a call away. We see patients through every aspect of recovery (and emphasize prevention) our state of the art facilities. Let OPTI get you on the road to healing this fall! Call us at (208)966-4476 or visit at one of our locations:
1812 N. Lakewood Dr.
Coeur d’ Alene, ID 83814
1160 E Polston Ave
Post Falls, Idaho 83854