Tips for safe and healthy gardening
Dr. Amelia Fratnik
It’s almost that time of year again when we want to get out there and start exercising our “green thumbs”! There are several tips and reminders to ensure a pain-free and safe start to the gardening season.
1. Warm up. You should take a brisk 5 to 10 minute walk around your block or yard; alternatively, you could march up and down stairs inside your home for 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Stretch before you start. Always treat gardening like a ‘sport’; you should warm up, garden, and then cool down. Stretches should include:
• Your sides- extend one arm over your head and bend to each side from the waist
• Your thighs- bend one knee and grasp the ankle. Repeat on each side.
• Your hamstrings- with straight legs, carefully bend forward to reach towards your toes
• Your shoulders- let your arms hang loose and roll your shoulders in circles
• Your wrists- hold one arm out in front of you with your palm down. Bend your wrist so that your fingers point to the ground. Use your other hand to hold this position. Then keep your arm straight with your hand in the “stop” position. Use your other hand to hold this position.
• Your arms/shoulders- give yourself a wrap-around hug, and slowly rotate to one side then the other.
• Your back- while seated, bend forward to touch the ground while your head is down.
3. Choose the right tools. When possible, choose tools that are ergonomically designed with padded handled and spring action. Make sure they are the proper size and weight for you. In addition, consider that:
• A hose is easier to manage than a watering can
• A good cart, or dolly, makes moving heavier loads a breeze
• A wheelbarrow that is lightweight and has two wheels is a good idea
• Separate a larger load into several smaller ones
• Select comfortable, thick soled, supportive shoes
• Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat
• Wear gloves and sunscreen
• Use ergonomically designed, long-handled, lightweight tools
• Don’t forget to hydrate! Drink plenty of water or watered-down no sugar added juices
4. Bend your knees, lift with ease. Proper bending and lifting technique can alleviate the back strain that many gardeners feel unnecessarily during the gardening season.
• Get close to the load. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward and head up.
• Crouch down, knees bent, back straight. Use your arms and legs to do the lifting slowly and smoothly.
• Make sure you keep the load close to your body. Do not twist, only pivot on your feet to change directions. Bend your knees to lower the load carefully while keeping it close to your body. Avoid any heavy lifting especially after prolonged kneeling or bending.
• Do not lift heavy items without help! This could be with the use of a wheelbarrow or another helper- extra hands or tools help prevent injury!
5. Use the “right moves”. It is important to think before moving to further prevent injury. Positioning your body correctly reduces strain on muscles and joints. Consider the following:
• When lifting, bend your knees, use your legs and keep your back straight. Carry the load close to your body.
• Kneel to plant or weed and use a kneeling pad or mat. Stop frequently to take a break, and remember to keep your back straight.
• Keep changing tasks, from heavy to light, from standing to kneeling or crouching. The job will get done in the same amount of time and with less strain or ache!
• Rake by putting one leg in front, and the other behind. Keep your back straight and bend your knees to ‘lunge’ forward instead of bending your back. Switch legs from time to time.
The above advice should be practiced every time you “dig” into the garden! Any back, muscle, or joint pain that does not go away in 48 hours is your body’s way of saying that it needs help. Chiropractors are trained to detect and treat spinal and joint problems. They provide expert care for your back, muscles, and joints, helping you enjoy life to the fullest!
Happy gardening! Dig in!