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Health Watch/Gladys Polzien, RN, MSN, CHPN

‘Oh, my aching back’

May 31, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

In Home Health Care, we spend many hours driving and providing care that may include helping patients with transfers in and out of a chair, bed or tub.

To prevent back injury, we participate in annual programs such as "safe lifting" and "stretch and flex" and encourage each other to use these techniques during our work day hours whenever we have the chance. But, with warm weather and summer weekends ahead, many of us become "weekend warriors" by trying to squeeze in too many activities into a few days such as gardening and yard work. That's what I did recently after a Saturday of gardening. Too much bending and lifting without using proper techniques contributed to my "aching back" moment.

As you go about your daily activities, you may never even think about your back, but your back is a complex structure of bones, muscles and other tissues extending from your neck to your pelvis. When you have back pain, you will discover that is all you will think about. I sure did. Back injuries can result from many different causes such as sports injuries; work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident. The lower back is the most common site of back injuries and back pain. Although, gardening is a great form of exercise and a popular hobby, it can also leave you with a painful backache. The American Council on Exercise suggests how to garden without hurting yourself: Here are a few tips that I found helpful and so may you:

Use correct posture and form.

Warm up before you garden with a 10-minute walk.

Make sure all of your movements are smooth and steady.

Keep your abdominal muscles taut.

Lift with your legs (never your back).

Don't twist your back while digging.

Breathe regularly. Exhale when you lift, and inhale as you lower a heavy load.

Make sure you drink enough water, keep adequately hydrated. Four ounces of water every 15 minutes during activity is encouraged.

An hour of gardening can reduce stress, boost bone density and burn a whopping 300 calories. But all that bending, squatting, raking, and lifting can challenge muscles as much as any competitive sport.

Protect your lower back and knees when gardening; there are several portable benches or knee cushions available to meet your needs at garden centers.

Most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take awhile. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than one or two days can make it worse. If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should call your health care provider. You should also get medical attention if you have back pain following an injury.

As for myself, I felt better after a few days and I am looking forward to delicious garden vegetables and lovely flower gardens in a few weeks.

Editor's note: Gladys Polzien, RN, MSN,?CHPN, is director of operations at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice.



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