April showers bring May flowers! Here we are closing in on the end of April which means in the next few weeks gardening will be on everyone’s mind. While gardening can be a fun way to plant flowers, grow crops, and spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter…it also presents an opportunity for pain. Let us visit a few gardening techniques to avoid injury, according to PROCare Physical Therapy.
Before we dive into gardening techniques, tips and tricks to avoid injury while actively working in the garden, it is important to take time and design your garden space. Most importantly, locate your water supply and ensure your garden is within easy access to this supply. Water weighs several pounds per gallon. Therefore, decreasing the distance of carrying watering cans or buckets will decrease chance of injury.
First and foremost, wear sunscreen! Even on overcast days, sunscreen is most important. There are many clothing and hat options that offer SPF protection built into the material. Consider the weather and dress appropriately. If you are going to be kneeling and working on the ground, consider pants that cover your knees. If you are in a wooded area, consider wearing long pants and sleeves to prevent tick exposure. A breathable material that whisks away sweat will be important as gardening can be hard work!
Always wear gloves. Gloves provide an element of padding that will prevent blisters, splinters, and cuts. Gloves should be form fitting without being restrictive.
Always have water beside you and take several water breaks while working.
It is important to warm up and stretch before. Just like preparing for a workout or a game, a warm-up before gardening is equally important! Take 10-15 minutes to do some gentle stretching of the entire body and take a walk.
Protecting your body
- A very simple way to protect yourself is to keep your projects close to you. Do not overreach to grab objects you need, that is how injury occurs! Have your plants, seeds, and tools nearby.
- Maintain proper posture while working. Keeping your head and neck in a neutral position and avoid prolonged looking down or looking up. Keep your shoulders back and down and maintain a slight abdominal contraction to protect your low back.
- When having to kneel, use a cushion or kneepad.
- When working overhead, perform the task for 5 minutes or less and take a break. Use both arms when working, lifting, and carrying.
- Use hauling mulch, leaves, stones, etc. use a tarp and pull the objects instead of carrying them. A wheelbarrow is a great option when appropriate.
- Alternate positions between standing, sitting, kneeling every 30 minutes.
- When digging or shoveling, take several breaks! Do not overload your shovel.
- When pulling weeds, try to keep your elbow in a neutral position and your wrist in line with the elbow. Avoid repetitive twisting of the forearm.
- Avoid gripping handles too tightly. Use a light grasp. Keep your wrists in line with your forearm.
- Always be conscious of your workspace. Watch for uneven ground and keep your tools together to avoid tripping or falling.
Choosing the Appropriate Tools
Assess the project and choose the appropriate tool. Choosing an appropriate handle length and diameter is important. Generally, wider diameter handles are more comfortable to hold but will increase grip fatigue. A shorter handle will provide greater control. A longer handle will reduce back strain. So what’s best to use? It all depends on you, the task, and the length of the task you are working on.
When shoveling, keep the knees slightly bent and the abdominals slightly contracted. Stand with one leg slightly forward but ensure that your body weight is balanced between both feet. Keep the shovel close to you to avoid overreaching. Bend with your knees, abdominals contracted, and lift with your back straight.
When lifting, be sure you are facing the dirt or stone when you shovel it up. Then, pivot the entire body and release. Do NOT twist or throw it over your shoulder or to the side.
Contact us today
The team here at Miller Sports & Family Chiropractic has spring fever as well! We are ready to help you get out, enjoy your garden, and soak in the warmer weather. Contact us today.