Ergonomic gardening keeps injuries at bay

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Gardening can be relaxing yet physically demanding work. Gardeners who find themselves battling aches and pains after spending time in the garden may need to make a greater effort to reduce injuries and improve comfort when tilling, weeding or installing new landscape features.

Ergonomic gardening techniques and tools can help gardeners reduce their risk of injury and make gardening more comfortable.

Warm up. Just as novice athletes wouldn’t dive right into a strenuous workout at the gym, nor should novice gardeners immediately pick up a shovel and jump into digging a hole for their new tree. Gardening requires bending, stooping, lifting, twisting, and other movements that work the entire body. Spending 10 or more minutes stretching, walking and doing a few back and arm rotations can limber the body up for the physical activity to come.

Use proper form. Think about the mechanics of lifting weights during a workout, as home and garden tasks may mimic movements made when exercising. The strain on the lower back can be reduced by positioning objects close to the body and its center of gravity when lifting them. Furthermore, people can contract their abdominal (core) muscles when lifting and bending to support the back. When lifting heavy objects, power should be derived from the legs and buttocks rather than the back.

Keep items close. Keeping work closer to the body will reduce the need for stooping, leaning or reaching, which should cut down on pulled muscles. Long-handled tools can help minimize reaching. Use step ladders to reach high areas or get down on padded cushions to work closer to the ground. This alleviates strain to the neck from having to look up or down for extended periods of time. Raised garden beds can bring plants to a person’s level. Working below shoulder level whenever possible can prevent shoulder strains; otherwise, perform tasks for no more than five minutes at a time.

Invest in new tools. Cushioned grips and grip handles can prevent wrist fatigue, as can hand tools that keep wrists straight to improve strength and reduce repetitive motion injuries. Long-handled tools and push mowers should be as tall as the person using them. Seek out tools that keep the body in natural positions to maximize efficiency.

Even though gardening is viewed as a relaxing pastime, the work involved can be hard on the body. Ergonomic tools and proper form can can make gardening less taxing.