Preventing Garden Injuries
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Preventing Garden Injuries

While gardening has well-documented health benefits, it also comes with the risk of injury. In 2006, the Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents cataloged 87,000 gardening-related injuries in the country. For people who enjoy gardening, the drive to accomplish a task can distract from the body’s needs during gardening work. As gardening season kicks off here in the northeast, I would like to offer some tips to prevent injuries while gardening.

Warm up and stretch. A few quick laps around your yard followed by some basic stretches will wake your body up to the idea that you are about to get physical. Try a routine that includes dynamic stretches like neck rolls, shoulder circles, arm and leg swings, walking lunges, and torso twists and some static stretches, those that you press and hold for 10 – 30 seconds. Even a 10-minute warm up and stretch will remind you of your body’s needs.

Take frequent breaks and change positions often to avoid stiffness. By changing the type of activity you do every 20 minutes, you decrease your risk of overstressing one body part. Breaks also provide the opportunity to get a drink of water and, of course, to stand back and admire what you have accomplished so far.

Use tools for their intended purpose. Gloves, lightweight tools with good grips, a garden stool or kneeling pad, and a wheelbarrow are all good investments for avoiding injuries. Use the wheelbarrow for carrying things over any distance. Store and maintain tools properly to avoid unintended contact with the blades and points.

Use proper posture and body mechanics. While lifting, keep your back straight up and down and bend your knees to avoid back injuries. Instead of twisting, which can also cause back injuries, move your feet and align your hips in a forward-facing position.

If it hurts, stop. This is not the time to push through the pain. Continuing to work despite being injured could jeopardize gardening activities for the rest of the season. Call it quits for the day, rest and apply ice, as appropriate. For serious injuries, get some medical help.

With these tips, you will soon be admiring your beautiful yard and feeling great too.

Lauren Conigliaro, MOT, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with Outpatient Rehabilitation at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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