Pumpkins and autumn. Autumn and pumpkins. The two are almost inseparable, and this time of year the bright orange globes start to become a fixture on nearly everyone’s front porch, making their way into Halloween other general decorations as the fall season marches along. The only possible problem is that getting those pumpkins from one place to another requires a fair amount of lifting—and in some cases, picking them up from a patch—and if you don’t take the proper precautions, the otherwise-innocent activity of pumpkin picking may go on to cause an injury.
Lifting and picking pumpkins may not sound very dangerous on the surface, and in most situations that may be true, but it’s the large and heavy pumpkins you need to be concerned with. Pumpkins come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and though most generally weigh between 6-18 lbs., larger species can weigh up to 75 lbs. in extreme cases, and these plumper ones may pose a problem if not handled properly.
Aside from dropping a pumpkin on your foot or some other body part, the area with the biggest concern for injury is the lower back. The lower back is one of the most commonly injured areas of the body, and this is especially true when completing yard work and other tasks in and around the house. The lower back takes most of the brunt of force during lifting and twisting movements like picking up a pumpkin, and injury occurs when there is a disproportionate amount of motion between the lowest back segments and the rest of the spine.
Fortunately, potential injuries to the lower back can be prevented by closely following some general pointers for lifting objects. So if you’re simply planning on adding a wide array of medium-sized pumpkins to your front deck or if you intend to carve an extra-large pumpkin this year, be sure you’re lifting any weighty pumpkins carefully to avoid low back pain or other injury. We recommend the following tips:
- Warm up and stretch beforehand if it’s going to be a big job that may take a while; also stay hydrated if this is the case
- Never lift with your back; squat with your hips and use your legs only
- Maintain good posture with your eyes straight ahead, keeping your shoulders and hips aligned with your spine
- Use lifting gloves and get a good grip on the pumpkin
- Test the weight of the pumpkin before lifting, and if you experience any low back pain, stop; if the weight of the pumpkin is too heavy for you to carry, get a friend or use a dolly to help you out
- Be sure to hold the pumpkin close to your body; it should be positioned somewhere around your belly button
- Stay wide and low: use your feet to lead the way and take small steps
Picking pumpkins and decorating your house this time of year should be strictly fun activities that add to the festiveness of fall. Follow these provided tips and don’t let a back injury ruin your fun. For more assistance, or for any other pain you may be experiencing, our physical therapists in Shelby and Kings Mountain can help. Contact Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.