Many gardeners overdo it by throwing themselves straight into gardening without a warm up, forgetting that their bodies need, like the gardens, to be coaxed in gently and limbered up over a period of time.
By doing things the wrong way it’s easy to understand how back pain can arise from our pursuits in the garden, but most injuries are preventable if you do things the right way.
Here are some tips for getting your spring garden green and beautiful again without injuring yourself in the process.
Stand Close to the Load
- Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart, head up, feet and body pointing in a straight line with the item you are lifting. Pivot with your feet; don’t twist your body whilst carrying the load.
- Check the weight of what you are lifting. Use your leg and arm muscles to help you slowly lift.
- Bend your knees and slowly lower the load to its resting place.
- Do not lift heavy objects above your waist.
- Avoid heavy lifting immediately after prolonged bending and kneeling.
THE RIGHT MOVES
Using the right moves can go a long way to enabling you to plant and rake without the ache.
- Warm up before starting to garden by gently stretching your muscles. If it’s cold, wait until later in the day when it’s warmer.
- Never dig when the ground is wet or there is a heavy frost - it is difficult to do, making the soil heavier and also not good for the soil structure.
- Positioning your body correctly reduces strain on muscles and joints: do not repetitively lift heavy loads - alternate it with lighter loads.
Take the strain off by changing the position of your hands.
Check Your Position and Change it Often
Kneel then stand or simply sit and relax for a while, but don’t maintain any one position over a prolonged period.
Kneel to Plant
Use kneepads or a kneeling mat to reduce the strain whilst you plant and weed. Keep your back straight and stop frequently to take a break.
Ease the strain on your back by putting one leg in front, the other behind. Switch legs and hands from time to time, whilst it might feel strange it’s good to try and even up your movements.
THE RIGHT TOOLS
Choose tools that ergonomically designed, and are the correct tool for the job.
- Choose tools, which have padded handles where possible.
- Use pruners and loppers that have a ratchet system. This makes cutting easier and saves putting pressure on the back and shoulders.
- Keep the blades sharp to avoid extra strain.
- A hose is easier to manage than a watering can.
- A good wheelbarrow can help move heavier loads.
- Separate a larger load into several small ones.
- Wear comfortable, thick soled, supportive and non- slip shoes.
- Use ergonomically designed, long handled, lightweight tools.
- Put secateurs in a holster attached to your belt. This saves having to constantly bend down to pick them up.
By using the correct posture and tools, taking frequent breaks and walking around and stretching to ensure you’re not staying in the same position for too long, you should be in a position to help prevent back pain...
However back or muscle pain that lasts longer than 48 hours is your body’s way of saying it needs help, so if you do experience back pain that persists, please don’t wait too long to get it looked at. A range of treatments such as a physiotherapy, osteopathy and acupuncture can help back pain.
Please get in touch if you would like more information on how our experienced, multi-disciplinary team may be able to help you.
Post by one of our osteopaths, Anthony McEwan