We talk with Elaine Parker, Physiotherapy Manager at Duchy Hospital, about the precautions we should be taking when working in our gardens.
As springtime arrives, the days grow longer and we look forward to warmer weather that beckons us into our gardens. However, as many people often boast a green thumb and a sore back, it is clear that gardening isn’t always a pain-free activity.
“Most people do not consider gardening an exercise,” begins Elaine. “But it can be hard work and few of us are physically prepared for it. Most gardening activities are fairly rigorous and gardeners sustain the same injuries as sports people.”
However, there are ways to avoid these aches, pains and strains. Doing a few simple stretches before heading out can help warm up your muscles and help prevent injury. As such, Elaine has very kindly provided some top tips for pain-free gardening!
Stretching: Do back exercises before and after gardening to mobilise and strengthen the spine.
Weeding and planting: Gripping, twisting and pulling can inflame tendons. Stop to massage wrists and lower arms. Lock hands with palms facing out and stretch them over the head, behind the back and out in front. Sustained bending can cause muscle spasm in the lower back. Move close in or use a long-handled implement. Cushion the knees with pads. Take a break or change activity every 20 minutes.
Lifting: Keep your back straight, bend your knees, look ahead and hug the load close to your body. Test the weight of something by lifting one corner – if it’s heavy, roll it or push it. Divide a heavy load and make several trips using a wheelbarrow or trolley.
Digging and shovelling: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart for stability. Use a long-handled spade. Let your legs support you, not your back. Shovel small amounts.
Pulling up shrubs: Crouch close to the plant and hold it firmly, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your head up, bend your knees and straighten legs, keeping the back straight. Lean away from the object as you pull.
Sweeping, hoeing and hedging: Stick to a forward and backwards action when sweeping and hoeing. Use small, controlled movements when trimming hedges; don’t overreach.
Equipment: Choose lightweight implements and think about your posture. When using a hover mower, for example, don’t swing from the waist; turn your whole body in line with the mower. Don’t overload wheelbarrows. If in doubt when starting petrol-powered equipment, ask for help.
Hopefully these tips will mean that when you venture into your garden the only changes you’ll be making will be to your flowerbeds and hedgerows! Happy gardening!
Penventinnie Lane, Truro TR1 3UP