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Back Friendly Yard Work Tips

Woman gardening in her yard

Yard work can be both a necessary and enjoyable activity for many, whether you live in a condo with a small yard, a suburban community, or on a sprawling ranch in rural America. However, yard work can often cause the unprepared to sustain a musculoskeletal injury, especially to the lower back. Knowing how to prepare for yard work is usually appropriate for most adults in order to avoid unanticipated and unwanted problems.

Yard work typically involves repetitive bending, lifting, and twisting activities, and may include maintaining a bent-over position for several minutes at a time. All of these actions and postures may place significant biomechanical stresses on the joints, muscles, and ligaments of the lower back. This may result in injury to anatomical structures that have not been trained to support such loads. Effective yard work preparation involves core exercise training and general fitness activities such as cardiorespiratory exercise and strength training accompanied by an understanding of safe bending and lifting techniques.

Core exercises train your deep abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and the very important transversus abdominis. Regular sit-ups will train the rectus abdominis, but this is the most superficially located of your core muscles. Your oblique and, especially, your transversus abdominis provide stability and support to your lumbar spine and pelvis, helping to ensure that your bending, lifting, and twisting activities will be relatively safe and injury-free in most daily contexts.

Core exercises include many routines familiar to older fitness enthusiasts and former high-school athletes, such as squats, pushups, and jumping jacks. More recent additions to the core exercise group include the plank, hip presses, leg crossovers, and forward and backward lunges. Core exercises only require an exercise mat and possibly some lightweight dumbbells for squats and lunges. They can easily be done at home or outdoors in your backyard or neighborhood common area. The addition of upper and lower body strength training and cardiorespiratory exercise such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling will provide a complete fitness program that will enable you to fully engage in vigorous activities of daily living such as yard work, carrying heavy packages, and other household chores.

It is also always important to pay attention to optimal bending and lifting practices. Prior to performing bending, lifting, or twisting activities, you should make sure your abdominal muscles are activated by breathing in and flattening out your stomach. Next, get as close as possible to the object you’re intending to lift or otherwise manipulate, bend your knees, and bend forward at the waist, continuing to keep your abdominal muscles strong. Then, lift the object while keeping it close to your center of gravity and straighten your legs. By adhering to this sequence of maneuvers, you’ll be able to safely lift objects of reasonable weight, as well as safely engage in productive yard work and gardening.

1Caneiro JP, et al: Physiotherapists implicitly evaluate bending and lifting with a round back as dangerous. Musculoskelet Sci Pract 2018 39:107-114, 2018

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil

2Kumar T, et al: Efficacy of core muscle strengthening exercise in chronic low back pain patients. 28(4):699-707, 2015

3Turner LW, et al: Influence of yard work and weight training on bone mineral density among older U.S. women. J Women Aging 14(3-4):139-148, 2002

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Testimonials

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "Before visiting Dr. Katerina Sheffield, I had visited multiple chiropractors and a back specialist for almost 2 years on a weekly basis to address my severe lower back pain. I couldn’t see the end in sight. I had been thinking I’d have to get use to living with my lower back pain at just age 25. After visiting my massage therapist, Stacia Guerrero, she advised that I see Dr. Sheffield because my issues were structural, and not just muscular. Working with Dr. Sheffield, I found that her upper cervical work got right to the cause of my problem. I saw faster results in just a few months than in the past 2 years. I found her commitment to my healing process reassuring and I was surprised how quickly I noticed results. After just a few months, I feel so blessed that I found her. Thank you so much and I highly recommend Dr. Sheffield to anyone seeking chiropractic work."
    John E
  • "When I first came to the office, I was experiencing neck and spine pain that was preventing me from sleeping well. The pain was consistently at an 8 out of 10! I have seen other chiropractors in the past but with only minimal results.
    After a few treatments with Dr. Sheffield I started seeing differences in my sleep and mobility as well as decrease in the pain I had lived with for over 20 years! I was surprised and pleased that 11 consecutive weeks helped change my habits! Overall, my experience has been great and I am very grateful for Dr. Sheffield’s help."
    Bridge B
  • "I have found the last piece of the puzzle in the treatment of mid thoracic, neck pain and headaches. I’ve been on a 30 year journey with pain brought in partly because of poor posture and car accidents where I was rear ended at 55 to 60 miles per hour. ... Years later as back and neck pain set in I sought physical therapy believing this would “take care of it” and since I’m a PT myself, I had high hopes that it would. ...Becoming certified in Pilates instruction, I continued to improve some but the neck pain never stopped and the headaches got worse over time. ... At a friend’s suggestion I saw Dr. Sheffield. X-rays revealed some significant disc degeneration and improper weight bearing through the neck. Physical exam revealed mal-alignment of my atlas and axis. Treatment of these areas has finally, for the firs time in years, given me weeks now of NO headaches! I wish I’d have gotten here sooner!"
    Pam T
  • "I started seeing Dr. Sheffield because my neck and shoulder were hurting. It was a 9 1/2 out of 10. I was unable to work without hurting. In the past I have tried massage and acupuncture with no long lasting results. After treatments with Dr. Sheffield, I started seeing differences in lifting heavy boxes and setting up displays, which are integral parts of my job. Dr. Sheffield listens to you and advises you on things you can do at home to stay healthy. She is kind, sweet and always a pleasure to see. Her staff is friendly and helpful. She had made a difference in my life and I would recommend her to anyone needing help with pain. I feel so much better and found the experience at Dr. Sheffield's office very rewarding."
    Terry M.
  • "I started seeing Dr. Sheffield after being encouraged time and time again by a friend of mine. For over a decade I had struggled with neck pain and headaches so intense I would vomit form the pain. I’ve tried everything- steroid shots, volume shots, all kinds of drugs- and nothing touched the pain. I own a construction company so you can imagine how difficult it was to maintain my normal work load while dealing with these episodes. I stay very busy with intense activities like building homes and competing in 3 day nonstop ultra marathons which tend to aggravate my symptoms. Dr. Sheffield took the time to teach me proper ergonomics to maintain my adjustments. Being consistent and following her treatment plan over the last 2 months has allowed my headaches and neck pain to become manageable for the first time ever. It’s working and that makes it worth the 2 hour drive each way."
    David L
  • "I first came to Dr. Sheffield after an open-minded doctor who chooses to treat, rather than just medicate, recommended her to me. Because it is as much as it is a 175-mile round trip from my house, I had intended to be open minded enough to try it.

    Because of a lifetime of injuries from a gun shot wound to the mouth as a child, to oil field and construction injuries, plus 40+ years as a stone mason etc pain was a way of life, but at the age of 51 heart problems and strokes limited my activities. Having tried physical therapy, acupuncture and cupping, work hardening programs and years of chiropractic treatment with the then president of the American Chiropractic Association, with each having limited or temporary relief.

    So, after being treated for only a few sessions I experienced noticeable and longer periods of relief. With 66 years just a few months away, and other health problem, I am not calling this a miracle, but your help has surely been a blessing."
    Steve J
  • "I began seeing Dr. Shefield in April. When I arrived at her office, I could barely walk. I had been suffering with extreme lower back pain for quite some time but seemed to somehow "live" with it. In the month of March, while vacationing, I actually collapsed in so much pain. Dr. Shefield sent me to have x-rays done and my L4,5,6 discs were out and I also had an Atlas mis-alignment. I had no idea how much trauma had been done to my back over a course a several years letting this problem go.
    Dr. Shefield has truly kept me from having to have back surgery. I am no longer suffering with any back pain, neck pain, nor headaches. I can exercise again and wear my heels. She is an amazing Doctor! Until you suffer back pain you have no idea just HOW painful it can be. I am forever grateful for her"
    Laura B
  • "Dr. Sheffield has been great. My first visit was based on a recommendation from a friend when I had severely tweaked my lower back , and after just a couple of appointments, I saw a vastly reduced level of pain. At this point, I leave the office feeling better than when I arrived and look forward to my adjustments. I would highly recommend Westlake Chiropractic to anyone looking for a non-invasive approach to managing their spinal issues"
    Matt B
  • "I am 57 and my back NOW feels like it did when I was 35. I have been seeing Dr. Sheffield for about 4 months now, and now I am wondering why I went to all the other chiropractors…. Dr. Sheffield specializes in ATLAS (the vertebrae closest to the skull) therapy which little did I know, when correctly leveled, can have a huge impact on the rest of your bost – like MY LOWER BACK! It used to take me a full 30 seconds to get out of my chair in my office – stretch, groan a bit, stretch some more - and now I POP OUT of my chair like a teenager. Flying on planes is NOTHING now… as it used to be my worst nightmare. Check it out guys… my wife and my 22-year-old daughter is now going to see her…."
    Johnny S
  • "A fantastic place with a warm, beautiful and friendly atmosphere!
    Dr. Katerina has worked wonders with my neck and shoulder issues. After many months of pain and surgeries, I gave Westlake Chiropractic a try. I'm certainly happy that I did!
    Thanks to Katerina, I have regained a great deal of range of motion in my spine and shoulders. I'm now able to workout and do the things that I love in life!"
    Scott M
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Sheffield for two years. I have had surgery for scoliosis so my needs as a patient are unique. Dr. Sheffields gentle technique and pinpoint accuracy with adjustments is what gave me relief and results after years of discomfort. Headaches went away, lower back pain left and my quality of life improved. I value that she also offers holistic care and can speak to other ailments and conditions and make recommendations for supplements and other treatments that would aid healing. She is an outstanding provider!"
    Christiana W.
  • "MD recommended

    I feel very fortunate to have found Dr. Katerina Sheffield! She did a careful exam on me, including specific evaluations of spine positions and my leg lengths. The actual adjustments were very gentle but powerfully effective. I had immediate relief from low back pain even though I only needed a slight neck adjustment. Best of all, my posture is erect with no effort at all. This is effective and gentle chiropractic as I have never experienced before!"
    Moira D., MD
  • "Relief for the first time

    I’ve had chronic back pain for much of my life. Over the years I’ve seen several different chiropractors with only a little lasting improvement, and no real idea what the problem was. Dr. Sheffield was the first chiropractor to diagnose that I have a rare congenital defect causing my back pain, and she has tailored a treatment plan that is, for the first time, giving me real relief. She is a conscientious and caring doctor."
    Don
  • "Dr. Sheffield has changed my life and my Spinal health is only getting stronger and better as I keep going to her. Anytime I feel something pulling or not right, I tell her the exact spot and the symptom and she corrects it! I am constantly amazed at her interaction with her patients, her ability to make you feel you are being healed and calm at the same time. She is changing lives, let her change yours! Haylee G. Dr. Sheffield is not only a remarkable practitioner, but a wonderful person. As patients of hers, my son and I can unequivocally say she is the best chiropractor in Austin."
    Kara B. - Austin, TX