By WIN Contributor: Jenn Lapierre, Doctor of Physiotherapy
With the better weather right around the corner, gardeners are excited to get out there and start working in the yard. However, after a winter of hibernation, doing a little work around the yard can cause havoc on the body if you are not careful. Here are some of my safe gardening tips for avoiding injury:
1) Gardening IS Exercise!
Most people don’t think of gardening as exercise. But anything that requires your body to perform tasks outside of the normal daily activities is considered exercise. Warm up your muscles and joints with a small walk or some gentle stretching.
2) Change Positions and/or Tasks Every 10-30 Minutes.
Sustained positions are very hard on your body. Changing positions frequently helps prevent fatigue, overuse and injury. Avoid awkward positions, particularly when pulling weeds or getting into hard to reach places. Also, try rotating jobs to give your muscles and joints a break.
3) Take Frequent Breaks.
This is a great time to stretch, walk, and get a drink of water.
Even high endurance athletes take frequent breaks. If you’ve been bent forward, trying bending backward. If you’ve been working above your head, try to reach down to your toes.
4) Use Proper Body Mechanics.
This is mostly like the reason why most people get injured. Avoid repetitive bending, especially at your lower back or neck
Bend and lift with the knees and hips. Try to keep your back straight when lifting an object. Use your legs lower you to the ground to reach something. Leg muscles are much larger than back muscles and are designed for squatting. Keep your knees ‘soft’ (avoid locking them straight).
Get close to the task. If you need to put some force into a task, be sure to do it close to you to avoid extra strain on your back.
Avoid bending and twisting. This puts excessive strain on your muscles and joints and will cause an injury. Make sure you turn your feet to the load or task and move your feet and keep your back straight especially when digging.
Switch hands frequently when pulling weeds, pruning, cutting, etc., as this avoids fatigue and overuse injury.
Use long-handled tools if available to prevent bending and reaching.
Take more trips with lighter loads when trying to carry or lift a heavier load
5) Wear loose, comfortable clothing, hat, and proper fitting shoes.
Proper clothing and footwear will allow you the freedom to move with proper body mechanics. Flip flops are not helpful when hauling flower trays or bags of mulch.
Now that you have mastered these tips you can sit back and relax and enjoy the fruit of your labour. If injury does occur, come on in to WIN Health Solutions and see one of our Niagara Falls Physiotherapists to help with your injury and proper body mechanics. Happy Gardening!!!!