Top 10 tips to avoid gardening injuries
During the COVID lockdown our gardens were the only place we could exercise. Did those flower beds ever look so good? Now that life has cranked back to normal again our gardens might not be looking quite as good and we know we need to give it our attention. As well as being good for you physically (active people are less likely to suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease etc) there is strong evidence to show that exercise is beneficial to mental well-being too.
But wait – before you do – just think about minimising the risks because injuries from gardening are more common than you might think. Why would that be? Gardening as a hobby is done mostly by people over the age of 55. This is when our bodies are a bit less flexible and strong than they used to be! We’ve also had a few months not exercising in the garden and this is when we’re most vulnerable to injury. Most of us start around Easter, donning the wellies and clearing the garden after a long, hard winter. So how do we protect from injury and ensure we get a good 6 months of pain-free gardening?!
So here are Paul‘s top 10 tips for avoiding musculoskeletal gardening injuries and making the most of the time you have in your garden:
1) Warm up – having a brisk walk around the garden and doing some simple stretching exercises is good preparation for time in the garden
2) Build up gradually – we’ve all done it – there’s so much to do – the temptation is to hit it hard. The problem is that the musculoskeletal system takes time to adapt, particularly as you get older and this can be a common cause of injury. If you’re not used to it, start out by doing a little bit first of all – tackle a small area of the garden and see how you get on with a short period of physical activity each day. Gradually build up the time and intensity.
4) Think about your position – some activities, particularly repetitive ones, can easily lead to injury if you don’t get your body posture or technique correct. In spring time, you are also using tools and equipment that you haven’t used for 6 months. Make sure you are comfortable doing the task – if not stop and re-adjust. You can also vary the jobs depending on whether they require you to sit, stand or bend – as your back is unlikely to tolerate endless amounts of heavy bending or lifting.
5) Listen to your body – remember that pain can be your body’s way of telling you to stop. If you start to feel any discomfort, give yourself a break. Pushing through the pain may seem like an admirable quality, but it will most likely just make things worse.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – we can all picture the scene – you start digging out some old hedging and you need some extra strength to get the last bit out – but no one’s around. You can struggle on but the risk of injury is high. Why not leave it until someone can give you a hand (maybe after social distancing rules have been relaxed!)
7) Decide in advance what you’re going to do – get the right equipment, plan what is involved and tell someone else if you can so they are aware of what you’re doing. Many accidents occur as a result of poor planning.
8) Look after your back and knees – if you can, straighten your back, look ahead and lift using the power of your knees and legs rather than allowing the lower back to take all the strain. You could also try using a foam-padded kneeler to prevent knee pain and backache when planting, weeding or tending to low growing plants
9) Use long handled tools – Use long handled tools if you can, as this will reduce the amount you need to bend, reach or stretch
10) Warm down – after you’ve been in the garden it’s good to do some simple back exercises which can help to counter the strain and keep your spine healthy and pain-free
We hope that you will stay safe and well in the garden. However, we are aware that injuries happen to even the most conditioned and prepared gardener. During this period of social isolation, The Physios are on hand should you suffer an injury. Do read our blog on how we are offering physiotherapy at this time.