The first warm, sunny spells of the year cheers up most people after the winter months, and many of us get the urge to rush in to the garden and start digging! But beware! Every Spring, we see numerous back injuries, after people overexert themselves whilst gardening. Check out these tips and pass them on to the gardener in your family…
1. Remember that gardening is another form of exercise, and you should warm up and warm down gently as you would any other sport.
2. Build up your stamina. Don’t spend all day gardening from day 1, or you could well be very stiff and sore the following day! Several short spells, even of 20 minutes duration, would be better. Work your way up to a full day!
3. Make sure you keep warm enough while you work, Your back may become stiff if you let it get cold, so wearing several layers of clothing is often a good idea.
4. One of the most strenuous tasks is digging! Especially in cold, wet soil. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible while you work. Be sure to stretch regularly.
5. If a job really needs two people, don’t try and attempt it on your own. If you injure your back, it may be some time before you can do any gardening at all! Or, break down a job in to small parts – perhaps it’s worth making several trips!
6. One of the most common causes of back injury in the garden is lifting and carrying heavy items such as paving slabs or bags of compost. Don’t forget to bend your knees rather than your back; to keep the load close to your body and avoid twisting. NEVER bend, twist and lift.
7.Make sure you have the right tools for the job, and look after them, so that they do most of the work for you! Keeping blades sharp, for example, makes pruning much easier. Look for long handled tools which can allow you to work with much less bending.
8. The humble wheelbarrow often causes problems, as it requires you to lift and push at the same time, so take extra care. Make several journeys, rather than overloading a wheelbarrow, and be careful on uphill or downhill slopes.
9. Bending down to do the weeding can be a problem if you have painful joints. Special kneelers are available, and some have handles, which can make getting up again easier.
10. During repetitive tasks, make sure to vary your rhythm, take regular breaks and have a stretch. When you do have a break, drink water instead of tea or coffee. Keeping well hydrated is also very important!