Gardening has a rather gentle, sedate image, but perils await the unwary in the shrubbery!
Besides biting insects, harmful chemicals, sharp equipment and (for a couple of days a year anyway) sunstroke, the bending, lifting and twisting involved is a common cause of injury.
Gardening is an excellent workout, as anyone who has lugged a 40-pound bag of compost or spent an afternoon yanking out knotweed can tell you. And it should be treated like a sport by warming up beforehand – especially at the beginning of the season, or day, before you have limbered up properly.
Lower back injuries like slipped discs are not uncommon, but the good news is that a lot of injuries are preventable.
It’s tempting to try and get everything done when the weather is inviting, but don’t go mad and try to do everything in one go – break it down into gentler sessions, alternating between tasks to avoid overstraining the same muscles.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated.
- Warm up with a hot shower or a brisk walk. Circle your arms
- Take frequent stretching breaks – stand and lean backwards with your hands on your hips.
- Reach overhead and rotate your head side to side.
- Roll the shoulders.
- Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty so you don’t carry mucky things at a distance from your body, putting extra strain on your lower back and neck. Clutching that flowerpot close to your body reduces the strain tenfold.
- Don’t dig when the ground is too dry or the soil is too heavy with water. When digging, insert the blade of the shovel in the ground vertically and lift a small amount of soil at a time.
- When raking, step into the movement, rather than bending forward and stretching out your arms.
- Avoid overstretching. When trimming branches or high hedges, avoid strain on the neck use a stepladder or long-handled tools with bring the work within reach.
- Use a gardening stool for weeding to avoid bending from the waist and using your back muscles.
- Evenly distribute your body weight while lifting and contract your abdominal muscles. Lift with the legs, bending the knees. Or ask someone to give you a hand with the heavy lifting.
- Work at waist height with elbows bent and arms at your sides whenever possible. While mowing the lawn or pushing a barrow keep the back long and arms close to your sides with hands near hips.
- Don’t overfill the wheelbarrow. Two journeys with lighter loads is safer.
- Avoid twisting the back. Keep your nose between your toes so the hips, shoulders and feet are turning in the same direction.
- Likewise, when potting or pruning, make sure the hips, shoulders and feet are facing what you are working on. An adjustable workbench is a useful tool to avoid bending.
- Warm down afterwards– repeat the stretching exercise, walk around the garden, and then soak in a warm bath.
Gardening is a great way of staying fit and getting into the habit of following these few simple steps will help you stay that way.
And if you already have an injury, give us a call and we’ll help get you back into the garden as soon as possible.