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Injury Prevention: Spring Carefully When Spring Cleaning And Gardening

April 19, 2010

Now that spring is officially here, you may be thinking of spring cleaning, both indoors and out. But before you rush into activity, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests you take certain precautions: Statistics show that thousands of people injure themselves during their annual clean, whether it be using a stepladder, a lawn mower or a rake or lifting heavy furniture and other objects. “When the ‘to do list’ is long, people often rush through chores and don’t take the time to get out the correct equipment, to take breaks and rest muscles, or to read directions and plan out their tasks. Many overuse injuries, including tendonitis, sprains, strains or breaks, can be prevented if proper ergonomic technique is observed and overuse of one or a few muscle groups is avoided,” said Fraser J. Leversedge, MD, spokesperson for the AAOS and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery/Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2008, more than 38,000 people injured themselves using a stepladder and more than 40,000 Americans injured themselves gardening. So, when it’s time to clean up the house, yard or garage, the AAOS recommends that you keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending should be part of any spring cleaning project: Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don’t try to lift any object by yourself if it is too heavy or an awkward shape.
  • When gardening, avoid prolonged repetitive motions during activities such as digging, planting, trimming and pruning and take frequent breaks.
  • Use a step stool instead of a counter or furniture when dusting hard to reach areas.
  • Ladders used for chores, such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees, should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
  • When working on a ladder, over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.
  • Read product labels for proper use and wear protective clothing and gloves when using chemicals for gardening or cleaning. Store all chemicals at the appropriate temperature, which is usually indicated on the package, and in a place that is out of reach of both children and pets.
  • Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care, such as calling 9-1-1.