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Spring and Summer Gardening … Without Injuries

With the nice weather finally here, it is safe to say many of us will be embracing the sunny weekends out in the garden readying it for a summer spent outdoors. With the fresh air acting as a psychological benefit of gardening and the exercise your body endures, it is a wonderful way to keep in shape and remain active. However, while gardening can be considered a relaxing form of exercise, it does carry the chance of injury and strains, particularly on your lower back, as it is a hobby that is not done all year long. Doctors have even warned gardeners that throwing yourself back into gardening, without a proper warm-up, can be as dangerous as competitive sports, for example, a soccer player returning to competition without training.

When there is a sunny day, we are

anxious to get back into the garden, and not just for 20 minutes either. Often we spend a full day out in the sun while the weather is nice to get as much done as possible. Going straight into vigorous gardening does not allow our bodies to be eased back into this hobby, which can make the garden a dangerous place. People failing to pace themselves properly, recognize the dangers and their body's warning signs associated with gardening, put themselves at risk for developing injuries.

So what tips can we offer you to prevent injuries from occurring in the garden?

  • Remember to warm-up your body. Engage in some gentle stretching of your thighs, shoulders, sides, arms, back and hamstrings before you begin in the garden in order to activate your muscles and joints.

  • Position your body at the height of the work. Kneel down when planting or weeding by placing both knees on a knee pad or an old cushion to reduce straining your back.

  • Use tools that work for you. If you are digging, use a small spade so you don’t have to pick up too much, therefore you are putting less strain on your back and arms.

  • Alternate positions frequently. Switch from heavy tasks to light tasks regularly to engage other muscles and joints rather than doing hours of repetitive movements such as digging. You can also consider changing your hand positions as well. The worst thing you can do is squatting and kneeling for a long time when you're planting. Standing up when you're done just about kills you. A low chair is recommended to alleviate some stress on your body.

  • Be aware of your posture. When lifting anything, be it a small plant or a heavy bag of soil, remember the importance of bending your knees and keeping your back straight. This applies to picking up and putting down movements. Keep the load close to your body.

  • Avoid twisting motions. Face the direction in which a load is to be carried to reduce stress on the spine. When lifting hefty garden essentials, transfer them directly from your vehicle to wheelbarrow to eliminate awkward twisting movements.

  • Use ergonomic equipment. Protect your feet with thick-soled supportive shoes and use recommended tools with a good grip on them. Remember that what may be a good grip for person may vary for someone else. Make sure that the tools fit comfortably in your own hand.

  • Avoid over-reaching in those hard-to-reach spots. This can strain your ankles, neck and shoulders.

  • Avoid one handed work. Most repetitive strain injuries occur when one hand is doing most of the work. Use your other hand to grip a long handle or use both hands together to help dig.

  • Finally, never continue any activity if you are feeling pain. Make sure to pace yourself and work at your own fitness level. Take breaks when needed and keep hydrated. Try not to do more than one to two hours per day.

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