Bone & joint health Featured

How to avoid pain or injury while gardening

The warmer days are a busy time for gardeners! You can bring back the splendor to your sleepy garden while remaining injury-free.

There’s lots to do, and digging, raking, pruning, lifting, moving and planting can all lead to back, neck, shoulder, wrist and knee pain. Using proper body mechanics and pacing yourself can make all the difference!

Plan your day

Do your gardening when you feel at your best, or when your muscles have warmed up a bit. Perhaps try gardening in the mid-morning when the sun’s not too hot and your muscles have warmed up. Or later in the afternoon when you’ve had more time to move around, and the sun is lower in the sky.

Do a warm-up

Before gardening, do a warm up! Muscles are less prone to injury when they are warm. Do some light stretching of the wrists, pectorals, upper back, lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. Or go for a short 10-minute walk.

Pace yourself

Take breaks— 15 minutes for every hour — and stretch! Rest and hydrate!

Change it up

Switch tasks every 30 minutes, like going from raking to weeding. Avoid sustained positions, especially when bending, kneeling or crouching. If you have knee or back problems, use a low stool when you are weeding, instead of squatting close to the ground or kneeling. If your knees will allow it, use a pad to cushion the knees to avoid soreness later.

To help avoid lower back strain, kneel on one knee instead of two. Make sure your back is straight and elongated in this position. Alternate your feet as needed.

Always think about body mechanics

Whether you’re lifting, weeding or planting, remember these helpful tips:

  • Use your abdominal muscles (we call this ‘bracing’) to help protect your back when lifting, carrying or digging, or when using a wheelbarrow.
  • Keep your back upright and bend your hips and knees when lifting objects from the ground
  • Bend from your hips, not from your waist
  • When lifting tools or bags of soil, or plants, use your legs and keep the weight close to your body

Happy gardening!

About the author

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Andrea Bean and Gargi Singh

Physiotherapists, Holland Orthopaedic and Arthritic Centre, Holland Musculoskeletal Program.

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