Gardening offers many of us a fun, relaxing hobby that provides us with some recreation and exercise. I would like to offer a brief overview of common gardening tasks and how to do them in a safe way for your body. You can prevent back and repetitive strain injuries by using correct lifting techniques, keeping your back in good alignment and using ergonomic tools. Before tackling gardening tasks it is important to limber up, go for a short walk or do some stretches to prepare the body
Lifting: Loads can be moved safely and effectively by following some basic rules:
1. Lift weight within your safety zone. Keep the load close to your body. The closer it is to your spine, the less force it exerts on your back. Holding 10 pounds of weight in your safety zone is equal to 10 pounds of weight on your low back. Holding 10 pounds of weight at arms length is equal to 100 pounds on your lower back.
2. Provide a stable base for your lift with feet apart and a firm footing.
3. Bend your knees and squat down. Don’t bend at the waist. Keep the principles of leverage in mind at all times – keep the load close to your body.
4. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Abdominal muscles support the spine when you lift offsetting the force of the load.
5. Lift with your legs. Let your powerful leg muscles do the work of lifting not your relatively weaker back muscles.
6. Keep your back straight (neutral) and your head upright. It is normal to have a small curve in the low back and neck and these curves should be maintained when lifting. This puts the body in a position to use the larger muscles of the legs and arms instead of the lower back muscles. Whether lifting or putting down the load, don’t add the weight of your body to the load. • Remember to inhale to prepare for a lift and exhale on the effort of the lift. • Avoid twisting, as it can cause injury. Turn your feet instead of your body. • Avoid awkward positions. • Ask for help when an object is too large or heavy. Wheelbarrow: When using a wheelbarrow, place the weight to the front, over the wheel, and then lift the handles using the technique described above. Always push a wheelbarrow, don’t pull it.
Digging: When shoveling, try to minimize strain and excess muscle tension by: 1. Using your weight to leverage out whatever you are digging. 2. Stay in alignment (including the direction your shovel is facing). 3. Move your whole body when dumping out your shovel. 4. Try to shovel using your right and left, rather than one dominant side.
Weeding and Gardening: Seek tools that will help reduce stress and strain. Relieve backache by raising (or lowering) the height of a potting bench or greenhouse staging area, so that your spine remains neutral as you work. Change positions or vary tasks every 30 minutes, to relieve strain on your muscles and joints. Choose tools like shovels and forks to suit your build and height: tall gardeners find long handled and/or angled tools much easier to use. Use a cushioned pad or kneeler when working low down at ground level, to avoid pain and swelling in the knee joints. Try sitting on a bucket or stool for an alternate position. If you have knee, hip or back pain, sitting may help to avoid putting pressure on those areas. Always push rather than pull or swing powered equipment like a rotary hover mower. Establish a neutral wrist position, as well as, an elbow angle you can comfortably maintain; then you have the ability to lean your weight into the task. Watering: Position yourself so that you are staggered stepped, supporting your center of gravity switching the foot placement often. When possible it is best to hold a watering device close to the body and within the chest or abdominal area. A watering can with two handles is great for allowing different support at different angles. If you have pain that lasts more than 3 days or think you have suffered an injury seek the advice of your physiotherapist or get to your Pilates class to re-stabilize and re-connect with your core. Aches and pains also mean your connective tissue can’t glide over the surface of your muscles and bones and joints so get to a MELT class. HAPPY HEALTHY GARDENING! To book an appointment with Robin Bone, Physiotherapist at the studio, call 204.487.2287 or email us info@ pilatesmanitoba.com