Guidelines for Gardening

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By Dr. Kevin Bloom
Published on April 19, 2014

Woman GardeningHowever not typically perceived as an actual physical activity, gardening can often be more physically demanding than other physical activities.  As a result, one can develop a number of musculoskeletal injuries from gardening.  One of the most common gardening injuries is lower back pain.  The following guidelines should be followed in order to try to prevent such injuries:

  • Perform gentle warm-up exercises before beginning.  For example, while standing upright, slide your right arm down the outside of your right leg to the right knee.  Hold for five seconds.  If you cannot go this far, then just go as far as you can.  Do the same movements on your left side.  Perform these movements multiple times.  Another possible exercise would be to go for a short walk. 
  • Purchase/Use lightweight ergonomically-designed tools.
  • When lifting (eg. emptying the wheelbarrow, lifting a shovel filled with dirt), keep your back straight and lift with your legs.  In addition, try to avoid twisting.
  • If heavy lifting is required, get help.
  • When mowing the lawn, walk forward and backward with the lawn mower instead of repetitively reaching and bending forward.
  • When digging, it is less strenuous if you put less dirt on the shovel each time.
  • Pace yourself.  It is better to plant for shorter durations but multiple times per day than to plant once per day for a long duration.
  • If doing a lot of weeding or planting, sit on a bucket (upside down) or a stool.
  • If you become sore, discontinue gardening and apply ice over the affected region for 10 minutes 3-4 times per day.  If the ice pack is too cold, wrap it in a paper towel or a t-shirt.  If symptoms increase, discontinue use of the ice pack.

If you are a senior and/or have health or medical problems, it is imperative that you first speak to your doctor concerning gardening and your health status.  In these cases, it might be wise to hire either a landscaping service or volunteer service.