An Occupational Therapist’s Top 5 Outdoor Work Tips

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Planning on getting some work done outdoors? Keep these tips from Occupational Therapist Sam Penkala, O.T.R.L. in mind.

  1. Examine your body mechanics of the shoulder when your arms are elevated.
  • Above the shoulder internal rotation can cause irritation in the shoulder called shoulder impingement
  • Try to avoid internal rotation of the shoulder, essentially making a thumbs down motion
  • Keep your arm activity below the shoulder, if possible
  • Take breaks, especially if above the shoulder activity is necessary, to give your muscles a chance to rebound, and analyze the effect your task is having on your body

2. Employ joint protection strategies of the hand.

  • Use larger and stronger joints when possible
  • Use two hands to grab objects
  • Don’t rely on your fingers when you can use a larger bone or joint
  • Just because something has a handle, doesn’t mean you can use your whole arm
  • Keep heavy objects close to your body and utilize your core

3. Practice the ‘golfer’s lift’ when you’re reaching down to grab something off the ground.

  • Brace your non-grasping hand on a stabilizer object, like a chair, walking stick or golf club
  • Lift up the leg that is opposite of the grasping hand; this will lessen the strain that is put on your back when you’re bending down
  • Avoid repetitive strain on your muscles and joints

4. Wear proper footwear.

  • Just because something is comfortable, doesn’t mean it’s great to wear when completing chores
  • Consider the protective qualities of your shoes and how they protect your feet from injury
  • Wear a nice-fitting shoe that has appropriate grip, doesn’t compromise your balance and allows you to be efficient
Don’t only put your shoes on halfway – it’s a trip hazard!

5. Drink water!

  • Drinking water is important in both hot and cold weather situations
  • Get a fun water bottle if you need help remembering to hydrate
  • If you are going to be sweating, in a hot environment or exhausting yourself for more than an hour, consider a sports drink in addition to water

Sam Penkala, O.T.R.L., is an occupational therapist at MidMichigan Health.


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