Summer Gardening – How to Avoid Back Injury

Gardening Without Getting A Back Injury

With the hope that the long, cold and wet weather might now be coming to an end I would like to share a few thoughts on ways that you can do the jobs that you need to in the garden  with a reduced likelihood that you will get a back injury doing them.

Firstly remember that gardening is a form of exercise.  It might be quite gentle exercise, pruning or dead heading, or it might be very vigorous exercise, such as digging.  Pruning will involve stretching and bending , whilst planting out is bending over stretching.

Each job in the garden has its own hazards and some of the jobs themselves are not a big problem but getting ready for them can be challenging.

It is important to remember that you should gradually build up any exercise and gardening is no different. So when you first go out do a little of each job in turn so that you keep a mixture of activities and use a variety of muscles.  Gradually you can increase the time you spend doing the various jobs and the total time you spend out there, just like any other form of exercise.

A few specific tips on different activities :-

Mowing –   Danger number one is getting it out of the shed or wherever you keep it, remember mowers are heavy and often awkward to move so make sure you have plenty of room to get into a good position from which to move them.  If you have a petrol mower be careful with the pull cord, again make sure you are in a good position and have room to move as you pull. Check the cord, I have seen patients who have gotten a back injury  when the pull-cord broke!  When you are actually mowing as you go up & down try not to turn the same way each time try to vary it.

Sweeping and Raking – are two of the more difficult jobs, remember that you have two different ways of sweeping, pushing the broom & brushing with a cross hand action.  Each can be done left or right handed so vary it use all four ways equally to keep the exercise balanced.  Raking needs to be done carefully as it can be very jerky and jerks are dangerous even little ones, again do it both left and right handed.

Digging – the most energetic of all. Remember to keep upright, don’t take too much on a spade-full and alternate sides. Push down with your Right foot for say five spade-fulls and then with the  left for the next and so on. This will keep your muscle activity better balanced.

Planting out and weeding – opposites in the garden but very similar posturally and effort wise.  Kneel, get a kneeling pad and work on hands and knees using one hand to support you and the other to work.  Every time you need to move the kneeler, change hands so once gain you get a balance.

Finally remember to gradually build up your activity and vary what you are doing so that you do maybe half an hour of one thing before moving on to something different to vary the pull on the muscles.  After all in the gym you do  a circuit of different exercises, so why should the garden be any different.

Here’s to hoping we all have a good back injury free summer with lots of sunshine for a change, after the last eleven months we need it!

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