Safety in the Garden
As the weather improves and the lighter nights are in we may be tempted back in to our gardens, however at this time of year the risk of injury can be high as we attempt to do everything at once. By observing a few simple safety rules, you can avoid back pain in later years, or cope with the back pain you already have, without having to give up gardening.
Dig for gain not pain
It is advisable before you start any digging task to do a few warm up exercises. This “powers up” the muscles in preparation for the task. Don’t dig too much all at once. Dig for half an hour then stop, have a cup of tea or a rest, and then dig again. This allows the muscles in your back to ease and relax. Once you feel a twinge in your back, it is telling you its’ time to have a rest.
Your Legs Have the Power
Firstly, think about the way you lift things. Do you frequently tend to, like most people, bend at the waist, grasp the load, and then straighten up? This puts tremendous strain on your back. You are not only lifting the load you are also applying the weight of that load directly to the vertebrae and muscles of your back. This sort of unsafe lifting behaviour is responsible for more back injuries worldwide than any other cause. We all do it and in later years learn to regret it. The correct way to lift to avoid this happening is by firstly bending at the knees in front of the load you want to lift. Once you are in a squatting position grasp your load firmly. Now while grasping the load use your legs to push upward into a standing position. By doing it this way, you are transferring the weight to your legs, which are biologically designed for load bearing not your back which is intended, if you look after it, to keep you in an upright position.
Are you superhuman?
We are all tempted to try to haul around heavy pots of soil or bulky, heavy bags of potting compost or manures. There are many mechanical aids out there that will save you a lot of pain later if you utilize them. Wheelbarrows, hand trolleys or even a friend can lighten the load and save you a lot of back pain. Most gardeners also get over enthusiastic when loading wheelbarrows. Never overload your wheelbarrow, it is safer, particularly where your back is concerned, to make more than one trip to move stuff than to overload the barrow and injure your back.
Weeding and planting
These are two areas where we tend to over stress our backs. Consider getting a proper kneeling pad to do these activities with. The ones with the side handles are preferable as they aid you when it is time to stand up. Don’t use a low seat as you are in a constantly bent posture that even after a short while will become uncomfortable. Overreaching is another thing to avoid as this puts strain on your back leading to back pain. Always make garden beds as wide as you can comfortably reach without stretching.
Spare your back
Another backbreaking task in the garden is planting. Many people bend down to plant plants. Always kneel, it’s a lot less strenuous on your back and will save you a lot of backache.
If you already have a back problem consider planting thick ground covers or use mulches to suppress the weeds. By using these methods, you can eliminate the need to get down and weed.