Stay warm: This might sound impossible on a cold dark, muddy yard in the depths of winter, but it does work. Think how your muscles relax when you have a warm bath or shower – this is because the heat allows your tissues to soften and open up, taking pressure off nerve endings. If you can start your jobs on the yard with warm, relaxed muscles, they are much less likely to be injured or to flare up existing problems. The best way that I have found for this is to use sticky heat pads, which last for ages and can be positioned exactly where you need them.
Listen to your body: Don’t wait for pain—often your body will start to tighten up a long time before the pain starts in response to activities. This is how it protects itself from overuse and injury, and if you respond to it straight away, it will relax again once the perceived danger has passed. However, if you continue to do the same thing the danger signals will escalate and your body has to try harder and harder to get you to stop. If you ignore the tension it will start hurting, and if you ignore that too then expect a muscle spasm or cramp to stop you.
Stretch properly: Slowly open up to the point where you can feel the stretch but there is no pain. Hold there—never stretch into pain—your body’s response to pain is to pull back, so it will make things tighter. Wait at that point until you feel the muscle release and get longer—if you don’t wait for that change, you won’t have stretched.
Get injuries treated: Even relatively minor falls cause an impact and affect your whole body via your fascial system. The affect of the impact might not be in the part of the body that you landed on. The transmission of forces through your body should allow the shock of the impact to be distributed and not focused in one place. But old fascial restrictions block the shock and cause it to get stuck within the fascial network. This causes new restrictions on top of the old ones, and new symptoms to develop over time—separate from the immediate pain of the fall.
Ask for help: Getting jobs done on the yard in winter can be really tough and the temptation is often to push through, ignore your pain and get finished. Things like dragging full water containers and carrying bags of feed and bedding are always risky for your back, even in the warm weather. If it is possible to team up with someone else and help each other, you will get done in the same time, but with much less chance of hurting yourselves.