OPTI’s Tips for Injury Free Spring Cleaning and Gardening

OPTI’s Tips for Injury Free Spring Cleaning and Gardening

As spring arrives and sunshine beckons us outside, many of us enjoy refreshing our homes and gardens for the good weather ahead. Spring cleaning and gardening are not only great for your home, but a good way to get your body moving as well. Your physical therapist team at OPTI has some tips to keep your body in tip-top shape while spring cleaning and gardening so you can head into summer in full health!

Spring Cleaning:

            We all want to enjoy the fruits of our spring cleaning labor instead of being laid up with an injury. Believe it or not, as physical therapists we often treat patients who were injured during every day tasks. When spring cleaning, there are some simple practices you can put into place to protect your body from injury:

  • Treat your body as if you were exercising, because you are! This includes warming up your muscles before starting your task to avoid straining them, wearing proper footwear, and staying hydrated and well fed.
  • Create a system that utilizes your time and strength well. For instance, have what you need on hand instead of having to make multiple unnecessary trips up and down the stairs to grab supplies.
  • Use the right tools to get the job done injury free. Instead of standing on furniture or a chair, use a ladder. Use a duster with a long handle to reach high, or a mop or broom with the perfect handle length for you to avoid bending over in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.

Gardening and Yard Work:

            Often gardeners find themselves with sore or injured knees after working on a yard project. A lot of garden and yard work is down low, which means squatting or kneeling for long periods of time, as well as getting up and down from those positions. Here are some tips to protect your knees and body while sprucing up your yard:

  • Have the right tools on hand. Using a kneeling pad can make all the difference in the world when it comes to protecting your knees. Keep the tools you are using close by to lessen the amount of times you have to get up and down, or twist to find those missing shears.
  • Make sure tools like the lawn mower, rakes, or shovels are the appropriate length and size for you to avoid having to bend over to use them.
  • When digging a hole with a shovel, use your weight to dig instead of trying to force the shovel with your back or arms. When moving dirt, use smaller loads on the shovel and avoid twisting: move your whole body to put the dirt aside.

Lifting heavy objects:

If you find yourself lifting heavy objects when spring-cleaning or gardening, there are some easy ways to prevent injury. To begin, ensure the object you are lifting is not too heavy. It is always infinitely better to ask for or wait for help than injure your back. To lift a heavy object safely:

  • Start with your feet hip width apart. Feet too close together or far apart will affect balance as well as the ability to safely distribute the weight you are lifting. 
  • Bend at the knees and hips, instead of the back when lifting heavy objects. To avoid lifting with your back, do not lean over and object or twist to lift it. Instead, while close to the object, bend your legs to squat down and pick up the object, then lift straight up with your legs.

Our physical therapy team at OPTI is passionate about helping our patients get back to and maintain a high quality of life. This means helping our patients train their bodies to be able to do what they love: whether that is gardening, chasing around grandkids, or getting back on the field to play the sport they love. To schedule an appointment to see one of our physical therapists, call us today at (208)966-4476.

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Fall Prevention and Training Clinic

Fall Prevention and Training Clinic at Orthopedic Physical Therapy Institute

Our Physical Therapists often help patients recovering from falls in our clinic. Many don’t consider risk of fall to be something to worry about or focus on preventing, but at Orthopedic Physical Therapy Institute we see first hand just how devastating a fall can be to quality of life.

Falls are in fact the leading cause of death-related as well as non-fatal injuries in our senior citizen community in the United States 1. The statistics are daunting, but research shows that fall prevention programs can greatly decrease fall risk while simultaneously boosting confidence and peace of mind for those at risk for falling or struggling with balance. At Orthopedic Physical Therapy Institute (OPTI), we offer an evidence-based Fall Prevention and Training Clinic at both locations designed specifically with our patients in mind.

Our Physical Therapists know that prevention is key: we successfully treat patients who are recovering from injury or surgery daily, but want to set up our patients for a healthy and successful life by preventing injury in the first place as well. Statistically, falls are both common as well as dangerous for our elderly Americans, as well as those dealing with balance issues. The need for our Fall Prevention and Training Clinic is ever present, and can make a huge impact on quality of life for our patients.

OPTI’s Fall Prevention and Training Clinic is offered at both our Couer D’ Alene and Post Falls locations. Our Physical Therapists are specially trained and equipped to train our patients in fall prevention and balance improvements, setting each patient up for success in the long run.

Here is what patients can expect form our innovative program:

Thorough Assessment:

There can be many contributing factors to a higher fall risk, yet if only one of those factors is addressed it could still leave significant risk for injury. We assess each patient on an individual basis, examining muscular structure, potential contributing underlying disease or medications, vision and hearing, as well as lifestyle habits and environment.

Customizable Treatment Plan:

At OPTI we know just how incredible each individual who walks through our door is, and treat them as such. What may be a contributing factor when it comes to fall risk for one patient may be completely irrelevant for another. That is why we take our evidence-based program and build onto it for each patient, addressing their individual needs.

Targeted Strength Training

An exercise program tailored specifically to preventing falls and improving balance has been attributed to a 35% reduction in fall rate by the National Council on Aging. Targeting specific muscle groups while working on balance and flexibility sets the patient up for success as well as greatly improves confidence.

Life Style Intervention

A large part of our Physical Therapist’s jobs are helping patients make their life work for them. When it comes to fall prevention, lifestyle makes a huge impact. Every patient’s situation is different, which is why we offer a variety of solutions and variations to our program, including help for those with vertigo or vestibular issues, assistance for those with limited mobility, and more.

Some patients may need additional strength exercises for specific muscle groups. Other patients may need recommendations for better shoes, a cane or walker, or other small changes. With a thorough assessment, each patient’s needs can be individually met, providing the help they need for a safer, healthier lifestyle. Better balance can be as straightforward as managing medications or blood sugar or updating a glasses prescription, or may need more involved intervention.

Now Is Your Time!

As we are all spending more and more time at home this year, it is easy to move and exercise less. Unfortunately, the less we use our muscles and practice mobility and flexibility, the faster we lose it. Now can be your time to set yourself up for an injury free, mobile life! Call us at (208) 966-4476 to learn more about OPTI’s Fall Prevention and Training Clinic today, or visit us at one of our two Idaho locations:

Coeur d’Alene

1812 N. Lakewood Dr.
Ste 100
Coeur d’ Alene, ID 83814

Post Falls

1160 E Polston Ave
Post Falls, Idaho 83854


1. National Council on Aging. (2021). Falls In The Elderly Statistics. NCOA. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/

Photo Credit:

1st: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.premierhomehealthcare.com%2Fservices%2Fphysical-therapy-rehabilitation%2F&psig=AOvVaw0XtzKyhd1VnzNQ2X7RPd7E&ust=1613510106620000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCMiV4tvn7O4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

2nd: inforgraphic: https://d2mkcg26uvg1cz.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017-Evidence-Based-Falls-Programs-Infographic.pdf

3rd: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=http%3A%2F%2Flikenhomecare.com%2Fhome-care-in-upper-st-clair-pa-seniors-refuse-use-walking-aides%2F&psig=AOvVaw2UqXFyGsPzgdQTFbodLV7L&ust=1613509998395000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCMisr6Tn7O4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE

OPTI Home Exercises

5 Tips to Make Your Home Exercise Program Successful

At Orthopedic Physical Therapy Institute, it is our job to get you back to health after surgery or injury. We know just how important physical health is to quality of life, and we take our job seriously. With each appointment, our Physical Therapy team actively works with patients on their road to recovery, but we know we only have limited time in a patient’s life. To help our patient’s succeed in getting back to health, we send patients home with a customized home exercise program to aid in recovery.

We know how hard it is to carve out exercise in our busy daily lives, and so much more so during the recovery process. With the program OPTI uses for our patients, it is simple and straightforward to begin a home exercise plan tailored to you. We use a program called Medbridge to give our patients specific, recovery-oriented exercise plans available in a handy app right on a phone or tablet (or a computer browser)!

Our easy to use plans have a custom exercise program, educational resources, as well as any notes the PT may have for the patient. We don’t expect our patients to remember every single detail of a handful of exercises and proper technique we show them in the clinic when they get home. Our passion is seeing people return to their full lives healthy and healed, and one of the biggest ways we do that is by setting our patients up to succeed.

Through Medbridge, each exercise has an instructional video, as well as specific details for how often each exercise should be performed, and how many reps and sets. Each exercise also has written instructions that include setup, the type of movement, and any necessary tips for proper form, or adjusting for specific patient needs. There is no guesswork involved in the road to recovery, but it does take effort and consistency from each patient to fully heal. Here are our top 5 tips to succeed in your home exercise program:

  1. Know Your Why

If your reason for completing each workout is “well, my physical therapist told me to”, there is not a lot of motivation to get you started or maintain the program. Understanding fully your “why”, and keeping that in the forefront of your mind as you exercise can make all the difference.

What is your “why” in recovery? Maybe your “why” is being able to chase after your kids or grandkids again. Maybe it’s entering that next race. Or skiing next season (or this season!). Each “why” is as different as each road to recovery, but they are all equally important.

  • Understand Your Path to Recovery:

Understanding your injury and recovery progress fully is imperative to succeeding in your recovery. Patient education is a key part of our treatment, but if you do not understand an aspect of your care or exercise program, speak up! We’d love to answer any questions and set you up for success.

  • Plan Out Your Day

Plan ahead! Pencil in your exercise time, and make it a priority. Set a reminder on your phone or home hub, until doing your exercises is a normal part of daily life. The key to recovery is consistency, and your body will thank you for forming positive habits for recovery.

  • Have the Right Equipment

Check with your physical therapist to make sure you have what you need at home as far as exercise equipment.  Most exercises can be easily performed with no equipment, and is tailored to each patient’s specific recovery needs. The exercises may be performed from the couch or bed depending on the patient, or on the floor, standing up, or using a chair for balance. However, using light dumbbells, resistance bands, or a foam roller may be necessary for your exercise

plan. Make sure to assemble everything you need before starting your program, with the help and recommendation of your physical therapist.

  • Make an Environment for Success

An open, safe space is essential to succeed with your home exercise program. Set aside a place to exercise. You can lay down a yoga mat, have a water bottle nearby, and turn on some music. Your body and brain will appreciate the cues of a good environment to signal “Hey, We’re ready to work out now!”

Let us assist you in your road to recovery after injury or surgery! Call OPTI today at (208)966-4476 to schedule an appointment with one of our excellent Physical Therapists.

Photo Credit: Medbridgego.com

Snow Falls

5 Ways to Avoid Bone and Joint Injuries When Shoveling Snow

‘Tis the season for our physical therapists to see patients come to our clinic with strains and injuries from snow shoveling. Often we see bone and joint injury, or damage to the hips, knees, or back from shoveling. As physical therapists, it is not only our job to help patients recover from injury, but also help patients in preventing injuries in the first place. With proper technique and equipment, shoveling can be just another chore with no worry of injury.

There are many ways to make shoveling easier, and with less risk of muscle strain. Here are some tips for shoveling safely for an injury free winter:

1. Choose The Right Shovel

Let’s start with the basics: picking a shovel. The right snow shovel makes all the difference in preventing injury. The size of the shovel should be such that you do not have to bend over awkwardly to use it, causing a strain on the back. There are shovels with adjustable handle lengths that ensure that whoever in your household is using it can do so without discomfort.

A shovel with a curved handle can also make ergonomic shoveling easier. Too heavy of material or a metal blade can be another contributing factor to injury and muscle strain.  When choosing which shovel to purchase or use, check how much you have to bend over to operate it. If you are straining your lower back or neck to use it, it’s not the right fit for you!

2. Maintain Good Posture

That brings us to posture. Once you have the right snow shovel for you, it will be easier to maintain a posture that will protect against injury. When shoveling, it is important to bend at the hips, and use your leg muscles to ensure that you are not straining your lower back.

When pushing the shovel, don’t load the blade with too much snow. To protect your lower back and body, have your hips facing the direction you are pushing and lifting the snow. Twisting when pushing, lifting, or tossing the snow can cause strain or injury to the back or neck. Keeping your hips square to the shovel will prevent this type of strain.

3. The Right Method is Key

  • Warm Up

The right shovel for you and proper posture are the foundation for a method that will protect your body and prevent injury. Shoveling can be viewed as a type of exercise: you are using your muscles to clear your walkways and driveways! An athlete would not start exercising without warming up their muscle, especially not when heading out into a cold weather workout.

The same goes for you: heading straight out into the frigid air and putting your cold muscles to work could cause more harm than good. When muscles are warmed up, they are loose and better equipped for movement and use. Cold muscles put to work are stiff and tight, and easier to strain or more susceptible to being sore the following days. Warming up can be as simple as a couple of light exercises to loosen your arm, leg, and back muscles before stepping outside.

  • Divide And Conquer

When your muscles are warmed up, you are ready to go! Pick up that just-right-for-you shovel, square your hips, and begin. It is always better to push the snow rather than lift, which may mean clearing a path right down the middle of your driveway, leaving two smaller halves of snow on either side of your cleared line. Then, you have smaller sections to push the snow out to the sides of the driveway. This will lessen the load when it comes to pushing the snow.

  • Lift With Proper Posture

If you have to pick up and toss the snow, just remember our posture tips: hips and shoulders facing where you are aiming, and no twisting! Use one hand to grab the shaft as (comfortably) close to the blade as you can, lift with your legs, and toss. Bend your legs instead of lower back.

4. Wear the Right Gear

Keeping your body warm, as we mentioned, will protect your muscles. Wear clothes appropriate for the weather. What we really want to emphasize, however, is what is on your feet. So often in the winter we help patients recover from fall injuries that could have been prevented with proper shoes.

When shoveling, wear winter boots with good traction! This is such an easy and simple way to care for your body. If your walkway or driveway is icy, you can even consider wearing winter traction cleats on your feet. These easy to use plastic cleats just slip over the bottom of your shoes, and provide that extra added traction to keep you safe and injury free.

5. OPTI Has Your Back

If you do injure yourself this winter, we have your back (pun intended). Our physical therapists have a wide variety of professional backgrounds, all with the shared goal of providing the highest level of care. We help our patients not only recover, but strive to enhance every day life function. You can expect to be treated with compassion and expert guidance on your road to recovery.

At Orthopedic Physical Therapy, we know that prevention is key to maintaining health. We want to equip our patients for a better life, and do just that with everyone that walks through our door. If you are injured or facing a surgery that you want to bounce back from, we can help you on the path back to health. Call us today at (208) 966-4476 to schedule your first step towards health.

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