Gardening is an extremely satisfying and healthy activity that a large percentage of the population enjoys. As any person who gardens can attest, it can be a strenuous activity. Gardening typically yields two types of injuries:
Traumatic injuries – such as back strains, ankle sprains, lacerations, and contusions.
Repetitive Stress injuries – which occur in your soft tissues after prolonged use and repetitive movement patterns, such as raking or shoveling.
Prevention is the key for both traumatic and repetitive stress injuries. Here are some simple and useful points that can help prepare you for a safe and successful gardening season:
Start an exercise program! By improving your flexibility, muscle and tendon strength, and cardiovascular endurance your body will be more resilient while participating in the physical rigors of gardening. In addition, the better condition you’re in, the quicker you can recover should you sustain an injury!
Understand the basic principles of body mechanics and safe lifting techniques.
Your thigh, hip, and buttock muscles should be used instead of your back muscles as much as possible. To facilitate the use of your hips and legs make sure to bend your knees and keep your head in its anatomical position – face looking straight ahead, NOT down.
Keep objects close to you and your center of gravity when lifting, pushing, or pulling. When your arms are extended and you are manipulating the object away from your center of gravity the stress is displaced directly to your back.
Don’t twist! Lifting and twisting will result in uneven load distribution in your body and can lead to sprains or strains from head to toe. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart. A wide base of support is stable and safe, while a narrow base is unstable and can result in undue sprains and strains.
Position your working environment for easy access and less stress on your body. For example: build raised beds or use pots and planters, which will lessen the degree of bending or squatting you have to do to reach the plants and dirt.
Recognize that injuries can happen when you are tired and in a hurry. If you become fatigued while working in the garden, allow yourself to stop and then resume when your body is rested and energized. Focus on quality time in the garden over quantity of time and know your limits. Have a well -stocked first aid kit near by. Know how to control bleeding, clean wounds, bandage and splint appropriately. Also remember to use the R.I.C.E. principle: R=rest, I=ice, C=compression, E=elevate.
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