Injury Prevention Tips
Injury Prevention When Gardening
People do not realize the stress and strains they put on all their muscles and joints (back, hip, knees, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and even your fingers) with gardening. This activity involves digging, planting, weeding, pushing, pulling, lifting, bending, twisting, raking, hoeing, shoveling, and mulching.
Here are some simple tips to follow to decrease your risk of injury:
- Warm up your muscles then stretch prior to the task. This can be done by simply walking around the yard planning out your groundwork, followed by some gentle stretching for your neck, back, arms, and legs.
- Wear protective clothing (gloves, long sleeve shirts and pants, and proper shoe wear – no flips flops or slip on). Remember that there may be bacteria, fungus, or insects in the soil or shrubbery that could cause infection. Lyme disease is also at it’s highest in the state of New Hampshire, and you need to take steps to avoid exposure.
- Select the proper tools. Wide handled tools with padded handles will protect the joints in your hands. Keeping your wrist in a neutral position to prevent injuries to the wrist and forearm. Use long handled tools with padded handles to avoid over reaching, kneeling and excessive bending.
- Organize your gardening tools in a basket or wheel barrel to transport them to the area you will be working.
- Work in 10 to 20 minute sessions, switching activities frequently to prevent repetitive strains (i.e. don’t combine raking, digging, and hoeing into one task; move from raking to laying out the flowers in the flower bed or seeding). Remember to take frequent breaks, hydrate and stretch between tasks.
- Avoid pushing yourself, listen to your body, and avoid completing all the work in one day or even a weekend. Spread the work out over an entire week or two.
- Avoid kneeling on both knees; attempt a ½ kneeling position or sit on a chair/garden stool. If kneeling is unavoidable try using soft foam or pillow to kneel on.
- For those of you who have had a total knee replacement or arthritis, try sitting in a chair using garden tools that have long handles. These tools can complete the task and allow you to enjoy gardening like you used to.
- Proper body mechanics is the key. Never bend over from your waist, bend your knees (squat), keep your back straight and hinge from your hips, keep your abdominal muscle tight with all movements to prevent strain on your back, and avoid twisting pivot on your feet. When lifting bend at your knees with wide stance, keep objects close to your body with your elbows bent and arms against your sides, tighten your abdominals then push up using your legs.
- Always put all your garden tools away when you done to prevent future injury.
At times we are unable to maintain proper body mechanics or body positioning to prevent injuries from occurring. We utilize repetitive motions, overload our joints and muscles, use improper tools to complete tasks, or may have an underlying condition that makes us more prone to injury or inflammation. If injury occurs a physical or occupational therapist may be able to help you.
Some things you may try to alleviate your pain after gardening is to take a hot shower to soothe sore muscles and joints, and to ice the painful area 15-20 minutes several times a day. If within a week’s time the pain does not go away, contact your physician for assessment and ask if physical therapy could help you. Understanding the importance of treating an injury when it is in it’s acute phases will speed up your recovery time, and return you to your previous level of functioning sooner.
These tips were brought to you by Reston Therapy & Fitness.