Farming Can Be a Pain…

At the 2012 Maine Farm Days in Clinton, the Maine AgrAbility staff asked visitors to take a short survey about their boots and backs. Almost half of the full time farmers reported experiencing constant or weekly pain. Occasional pain was experienced by over 50% of all the respondents.

The largest contributor to pain was heavy lifting, arthritis, injuries and weight or fitness level. The areas of the body impacted by pain the most were lower back, legs, knees and feet. Pain in these target areas can stem from poor body support and positioning.

Being mindful of body positioning and correct lifting techniques will help save your back. Footwear can also have large impact on the body.  Wearing good fitting, supportive shoes or boots that are correct for the type of job being performed may cost more money to purchase, but will be worth the effort in the long run when it come to healthcare and pain management.

Half of the full time farmers used over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for pain relief, while that number was significantly lower for part-time farmers and farm family members. In addition to OTC medicine the part-timers and family members used alternate pain management techniques such as stretching, rest, and hot and cold therapies.

There was wisdom in these farmers and gardeners we met. A few of the most insightful comments we received were:

  • “Physical therapy retrained me in doing daily tasks — it was a lifesaver!”
  • “I now have custom-fitted work shoes — wish I had them 30 years ago when they would have done me more good.”
  • “positioning, pacing, prevention”

Farming is a tough job. You can reduce some pain involved with farming tasks by planning your tasks during the day. Don’t expect your body to be able to do all the hard work at once. Plan the heavy lifting with breaks, or working with others. Think about your posture. Are you going to be hunched over for extended periods of time? Are you going to be doing a repetitive motion?  If you are going to be doing long strenuous tasks, pace yourself. Take breaks to stretch and move your body.  Early common sense and planning can go a long way to keep your day safe and pain free.