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Springtime is well upon us which means many of us will be getting into the gardens a lot more. It may surprise you to know that even a peaceful activity such as gardening can have its own injury risks.

I for one did a recent garden clean up and despite my best efforts to maintain good posture and technique – I eventually felt the strain on my lower back. I thought “How the heck am I so tired and sore!? Am I breaking down? How do some people do this all day? The realisation was that despite being somewhat fit and healthy, the unaccustomed physical demands of the job was different to what I would usually do and therefore had my body working differently. Many of us will be in that same boat after coming out of hibernation over the winter.

With this in mind, here are the more common injuries associated with gardening:

  1. Shoulder tendon (the rotator cuff) injuries. Repetitive push-pulling, plucking/lifting from awkward angles, and prolonged activity at or above shoulder height.
  2. Knee joint injuries – Mostly occur from kneeling especially when sitting on your heels. Twisting injuries from shoveling and turning around often.
  3. Tennis elbow. Yes, Tennis elbow can occur with gardening – usually from excessive use of pruners and other garden tools.
  4. Low Back Pain. A variety of injuries can occur from bending for too long, lifting with incorrect technique, or with twisting movements from shoveling or transferring items.

How to avoid these injuries:

  1. The easiest and most effective tip is to take breaks! The majority of gardening injuries come from overuse or being in one position for too long. Herb your enthusiasm. Don’t try and do it all at one thyme. Don’t work until you wilt :P. Today won’t be the only sunny day.
  2. Following from point 1, change positions often. Kneeling, bending, and reaching overhead are all normal movements and only become problems when done too much. Appropriate equipment such as a stool, step ladder or knee pads can help reduce load on joints.
  3. Pulling, pushing or lifting items is easier when its closer to you. Imagine the feeling of holding a full shopping bag by your side versus holding it out in front of you.
  4. If working on the ground, plan to have something near to help you up like a chair.

Other tips:

  • Stay hydrated – Water/tea breaks are a great way of changing positions and stretching out.
  • Watch out for the sun. Slip slop slap.
  • Careful of wet or unstable surfaces. Get professional help if you’re not steady in ladders.

I hope I’ve managed to plant a few seeds and help you consider how you can protect yourselves against injury. Just some fruit for thought. Enjoy your garden but look after yourselves as well.