The secret to a healthy garden is a healthy gardener protecting his/her back.
Gardening is an active pursuit that can cause muscle strain to the lower back, shoulders, knees and arms, especially if you are out of shape and do not move properly. To get the most of your gardening season, we, at Brentwood Physiotherapy Clinic recommend that gardeners pay attention to the following gardening tips for spring to protect your back and prevent injuries.
A “warm up” of 10 repetitions of the following before you start your gardening helps to reduce muscle strain, injury, fatigue and protects your back, knees, shoulders and hips.
- Shoulder circles- forward and back
- Trunk rotations
- Gentle forward, side to side and back bends
- Heel / toe standing
- Neck range of movement- forward bends, ear to shoulder, rotations and gentle circles
- Please note that if any of these movements cause pain do not continue – see your Physiotherapist for advice
Do not wait to until you feel stiff when gardening. Avoid this by taking frequent breaks.
When raking, hoeing, pruning or digging – keep your tools close to your body and your back straight to reduce strain. Use your arms and avoid twisting your trunk. Use long-handled tools suited to your height.
If you have to bend over too far while raking, consider using an ergonomic rake to protect your back (available at garden centres). It will make the job easier and reduce strain to your back. Give your back, legs and knees a break from stooping and kneeling by using tools with long handles to help with the weeding
When weeding, potting or planting – do not bend from the back. Squat or kneel on a kneeling pad or if you have to bend forward, do so from the hips, keeping your back in neutral. If you have difficulty getting up, use a kneeling pad / bench with a support handle for assistance.
When digging or shovelling – insert the head of the shovel vertically into the ground and step on the blade. Lift small amounts at a time. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Avoid twisting. Use a wheelbarrow to move big or heavy loads.
Choose a shovel with a weight and handle length that is appropriate for your size and for the job you are doing. Give your back a break by using a smaller shovel, reducing the temptation to lift large amounts of soil. Spread heavy lifting and digging tasks over a week rather than a weekend, and spread major projects throughout the seasons.
When lifting or carrying – know your limits and lift properly: bend your knees, not your back. Keep the load close to your body. Don’t lift items that are too heavy for you to handle – get help! Use a wagon or wheelbarrow to transport supplies and / or to move or carry heavy items.
A four-wheeled cart is sturdier and easier to use than a wheelbarrow. Lift with your knees slightly bent and your back straight. Avoid twisting or reaching.
When pruning or trimming – get as close to your work as possible. Don’t stretch beyond your reach or past your stable footing. Rehearse the movement as a stretch first to test your ability and positioning. Match the size of the gardening tool handle to the size of your hand. Choose tools that you can hold so that your hand remains positioned in line with your forearm. Hold your tools in a loose comfortable grip. Holding too tightly may cause injury.
Gardeners are creative designers: Adapt or create your tools for ease and comfort and make spring gardening fun:
- Pad the handles of your gardening tools. Note that tools with larger, padded handles are more comfortable for gardeners with painful or arthritic hands.
- Enlarge tool handles with grip-tape or foam tubing purchased at a hardware store. Tools with tubular steel rather than wood are more lightweight and may be easier to use.
- Use knee pads or a foam pad for kneeling
- Wrap a slippery handle with tape to improve your grip (hockey stick tape will do).
Selecting the right tool, for the right task, for the right gardener, is critical to creating a beautiful garden safely.
Here are a few additional gardening tips for a happy gardener:
- Use a potting bench or a counter top where possible to prevent unnecessary bending.
- Wear a gardening apron with several pockets for carrying tools frequently used, or keep them close at hand, to avoid reaching or twisting for the tool you need.
- Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands and joints.
- Keep tools (such as your pruners) sharp to make cutting easier.
- Talk to a physiotherapist
Most of the aches and pains gardeners experience can be prevented. Physiotherapists have the education, applied knowledge and skill to help you garden pain-free and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
For more information read more at https://physiocanhelp.ca/?s=gardening
Don’t let pain limit your enjoyment of gardening. Let us help you smell the roses pain free!!