Reduce your risk of injury in the garden

As the spring gets into full swing many of us will be taking on all the jobs that need doing in our gardens. Gardening is a rewarding hobby enjoyed by many people but can result in some nasty injuries to our backs or other joints.  Our body is our main tool when gardening and it is important to take necessary care to avoid being injured.

Hints and Advice

‚ÄčFollowing a few simple guidelines will help to make your time in the garden as safe and injury-free as possible.

Take a short walk around your garden and do some gentle stretches to warm up before you start.  As with any other exercise your body needs time to prepare for the tasks ahead.

Try to avoid bending where possible by using long-handled tools, moving in as close to your work area as possible or plan raised flowerbeds which are easier to reach.

If you do work in a bent position take frequent rests and straighten up slowly.  Bend gently backward a little way a few times during your break.

Plan any jobs which require you to lift carefully – divide your load into manageable amounts, ask someone to help you and reduce the strain on both your bodies and use a wheelbarrow to transport materials and tools.

If you cannot avoid lifting, ensure that you maintain an upright posture, bend at your hips and knees and get in as close to the load as you can.

Try to frequently change your activity to avoid overstrain of joints and muscles by tiring them out.  Swap intensive tasks for lighter ones at least every 20 to 30 minutes and alternate tasks which require bending with tasks in a more upright position.  If you are working with your arms above shoulder level, stop every 5 minutes.  Use both arms and try to maintain a symmetrical posture to reduce strain on the shoulders and neck.  Take plenty of rests and drink enough water to keep your body well hydrated while you work.

Always use the correct tools for the job.  Tools should have large, soft grips.  If they don’t, pad the grip up using bicycle handle grip or foam.  Keeping blades sharp and hinges oiled reduces the force required to get a job done.  Tools with long handles are better suited for jobs requiring force whilst ones with short handles are better for control or repetitive activities e.g. weeding.  Use pads to protect your knees when kneeling and gloves to reduce strain and prevent tools slipping in your hands.

Finally – do not try to do it all in one day.  Work for a short period to begin with and gradually increase your time working as you become fitter.

If you do overstrain your body have a rest for at least one day and start again gently.  Sprains should be treated immediately with ice to reduce swelling and inflammation.  If you do not feel better within a couple of days visit your physiotherapist to determine the extent of the damage and help you with a rehabilitation program.  Physiotherapists are also very well trained in how best to protect your body and how to cope with any pre-existing injuries so that you can make the most of your time outdoors – injury-free!