This is the time of year we can say goodbye to the cold winter and welcome the spring season. The most important gardening tool we have is our body, so learning proper gardening ergonomics is the key to injury prevention.
Gardening is a great way to reduce stress by getting in touch with nature. It also requires a great deal of physical stamina involving standing, stooping, kneeling, bending, lifting and crouching, which can lead to unwanted aches and pains. Here are some tips that will allow you to safely enjoy your gardening season.
#1 – Warm up and cool down.
Gardening is exercise involving muscles of the entire body. Spend 10 minutes doing light stretches for your neck, arms, legs, and lower back before and after gardening to prevent stiffness and pain!
#2 – Change positions frequently.
It is recommended that you take postural breaks every 15-30 minutes to prevent fatigue and injury. Switch hands often when pulling weeds or pruning to avoid repetitive overuse syndromes. Plan for breaks and switch tasks often, alternating harder tasks with lighter ones.
#3 – Bend from your knees and hips when lifting or pulling.
When lifting heavy objects be sure to keep your back straight and brace your abdominals. This will prevent unnecessary stress on your spine and will put more emphasis on your stronger leg muscles.
#4 – Choose the proper tool for the task at hand.
Find the right tool to fit your body with consideration for handle size, weight and length of the tool. Long handled tools can minimize reaching while shorter tools increase leverage. Cushioned grips are also reduce grip strain.
Kari Styles, an avid gardener, is a physiotherapist at CBI Eagle Creek who enjoys helping people in her community recover from injuries and optimize their health and function.