Prepare yourself. We suspect that most people don’t think of warming up before launching into a full day’s work in the garden, but you should approach gardening like any other exercise. Start with a brisk walk and do some stretches to prepare yourself for the work ahead. Replicate some gardening moves such as squatting and reaching down to your toes (carefully and slowly). Warming up before you start will help reduce the risk of muscle strain and injury. It is also vital to keep hydrated too by drinking plenty of water and avoid working during mid-afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. Remember to wear loose, comfortable clothing so your movements aren’t restricted.
Start small.Gradually build up the hours you spend in the garden to lessen its impact on your body. The good thing about the gardening season is that the initial phases include tidying and preparation before the main legwork is required. Work in manageable sessions.Doing any activity for prolonged periods of time will put extra stress on your body and increase the risk of pain and injury. The most important piece of advice to remember is to take regular breaks. You should take a short break every 30 minutes and use this time to walk, stretch and change your position. Tempting as it may be to keep going, trust me, your body will thank you for the breaks at the end of the day.
Step up to the challenge.Instead of reaching up to cut back hedges or overhanging trees, treat yourself to a leg up with a ladder or kitchen steps. This will help you to avoid twisting or over-reaching which may lead to spinal injury. If you go any length of time doing something different to usual, it will inevitably have an effect on your muscles and joints. It goes without saying that ladders should be sturdy, safe and positioned on flat ground.
Stand tall.Try not to garden in a hunched position. Kneel with a straight back or use long handled tools and garden from a standing position. Try to keep your body close to what you are working on to reduce over stretching as this can cause excess strain on the lower back joints and muscles. If you are kneeling you may also find it more gentle on your knee joints to use a kneeling pad.
Share the load.Ask for help if you are undertaking a large project or simply need help carrying a heavy weight. Putting containers on wheeled bases is a great idea so you can reposition them very easily. Don’t forget that the wheelbarrow is your friend too, although always lift from the knees with a straight back.If you are laying patio slabs, keep the slabs as close to your body as possible. When you are kneeling whilst performing heavy work like this you may find it more comfortable to kneel with one leg bent not two as this will give you a stronger support.
Water wisely. If possible, install irrigation systems or a conveniently located hose to avoid carrying heavy watering cans. Watering cans mean you are inevitably carrying significant weight to one side of your body which could result in unexpected aches, especially if you have a lot of watering to do. Using ladders or steps for hanging baskets is essential if you are using a watering can.
Raise your beds.If it suits your garden and your gardening style, you might like to consider raised beds. These make gardening accessible for all ages and abilities as you are working in a more natural position and eliminating the need to bend down and therefore reducing repetitive strain on your back.
Reduce the work.If you have a large garden or feel your outdoor space is too much for you, it’s worth considering your hardscaping options and redesigning your garden so it needs less investment of time and energy. Patios, pots, gravelled areas and decking all cut down on hard labour!
Keep it short. Mowing your lawn is one of the highs and lows of gardening. Lovely when it’s done but sometimes it seems endless! Keep your back straight, always push the mower straight in front of you to avoid twisting,let the mower do the work and take plenty of breaks – especially if you have a large lawn.
Reward yourself.Stop and relax throughout the day – whenever you feel the need. Use your garden to relax in – sit and enjoy your surroundings and reap the benefits of your work through relaxation and rest.
At Stafford Chiropractic Clinicwe are committed to preventing injury as well as treating aches and pains. Consider these preventative tips when you next pull on your gardening gloves and do come and see us if you experience any discomfort as a result of your endeavours.
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