Take the Pain & Strain out of the Garden

Gardening Advice

Now the sun is starting to shine and there’s promise of summer being just around the corner many of us are being tempted into the garden. Whilst this is a great time of the year it is all too often that we see people presenting with back pain after spending a couple of hours gardening, which could have been avoided or reduced by following a few simple tips.

Gardening pains, Exercises for gardening

Clothing

  • Wear loose comfortable clothes which allow you freedom of movement.

Warm up

  • Gardening is an exercise, and as such you should perform a few gentle stretches before starting to help prepare your body for the stresses that it about to face. This gardening warm up video demonstrates Refer to for some simple easy to follow stretches.
  • Ease into the work gradually. Start with the lighter jobs and work your way up towards the heavier more physically demanding tasks.

Take Breaks

  • To avoid overstrain of the bodies muscles take regular breaks
  • Alter your work frequently, try not to do the same task for more than about 20-30 minutes

Weeding and Pruning

  • Get as close as possible to the area that you are weeding/pruning to avoid overstretching.
  • Bend forwards at your hips rather than through your spine.
  • Buy a kneeling pad to prevent excess pressure on your knees.
  • Invest in some long handled tools which will allow you to stand upright rather than leaning over. Some tools have attachments which can be purchased separately, designed for this purpose.

Flower Boxes

  • If you are finding gardening at a low height to be difficult try flower boxes or hanging baskets which can be adapted to the perfect height for yourself, and thus helps eliminate stooping activities.

Digging

  • Start with the shovel blade parallel to your hips, using your back leg to stabilise your body place your front foot on the shovel.
  • Use your body weight rather than strength to sink the shovel into the ground by leaning forwards and transferring your weight on to your front foot. Be sure to keep your spine straight at all times.
  • To lift the soil transfer your body weight to the back leg and then bend at your hips and knees before lifting.
  • Position yourself into a straight upright posture before manoeuvring yourself to wherever the soil needs to go.
  • Twist the shovel to allow the dirt to roll off it rather than throwing it, thus reducing the strain to your back.

Using a Wheelbarrow

  • Position yourself so that you are straight on to the wheelbarrow. Bend from your knees and hips and use an underhanded grip.
  • Straighten your legs maintaining a neutral spinal position to lift the wheelbarrow.
  • To empty the wheelbarrow lean forwards onto the front leg slowly and lever the wheelbarrow gently, whilst at all times being mindful of a straight back posture all the way from your neck to your buttocks.

Paving and Terracing/Lifting and Carrying

  • Ensure when you lift either the paving stone or terracing that your feet are shoulder width apart, you bend at your knees and hips whilst maintaining a straight spine.
  • Carry any object as close to your body as possible, pivoting and rotating through your feet rather than your spine.
  • Keep the paving stone or terracing as close to you as possible and when placing it down bend at your knees rather than through your spine.
  • It is likely that two people will be required if you are laying railway sleepers.

The BBC’s gardening section some more great tips including the general layout of your flower beds and gardens as well as specific plants which may be easier to take care of.

Making your garden a child friendly area

  • Regularly check the boundaries of your garden to ensure that they are in good condition to help try and prevent your children wondering off into a neighbour’s garden or other areas in which there maybe unknown hazards.
  • Ponds can be a common hazard especially for those under 5. Always supervise children playing by one and if you are thinking of installing one in your garden ensure that it is easily visible from the house and the pond has gently sloping edges rather than a steep dip to prevent a child from falling into deep water.
  • The RHS has some more information on making your garden a safe haven for your children.

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