Pumpkin picking: dangerous or fun? Physical therapists in Union explain how to keep it safe

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When you think about autumn, a variety of images are likely to come to mind, and for many of us, pumpkins are one of the first. Pumpkins are practically synonymous with the fall, and this time of year you’re certain to see many of them adorning front porches along with other autumn and Halloween decorations. But getting those pumpkins from point A to point B requires lifting—and in some cases, picking them up from a patch—and if you’re not careful, an otherwise-innocent activity can lead to injury. Our physical therapists in Union, Edison, Somerville and Woodbridge explain how to prevent this.

Picking and lifting pumpkins may not sound all that dangerous, 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 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 tips for lifting objects. So if you’re simply planning on bedecking your house with an array of medium-sized pumpkins or if you have grand ambitions 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:

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Use lifting gloves and get a good grip
  • 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

Picking pumpkins and decorating your house for autumn and Halloween should be fun activities that usher in this beautiful time of year, so don’t let a back injury ruin it. Follow these tips, and for more assistance, our physical therapists in Union, Edison, Somerville and Woodbridge are here to help. Contact Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at 908-393-9877 for more information or to schedule an appointment.


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