Now the clocks have gone forward, the birds busy nesting, spring is definitely in the air. What a relief after the wettest winter on record!
With the warmer spell and the plants waking up, longer evenings and warmer weather, the garden will be shouting for your attention and danger may lurk for the careless.
Safe Gardening Tips
Spring Gardening approaches and an increase in physical activity after keeping indoors on a dark winter’s night is bound to have potential risks attached. It really isn’t fair to ask your body to cope with several hours of bending and digging etc, if you’ve spent the winter months in relative inactivity. We need to ease ourself back into the increased work load to avoid potential injury.
Don’t decide to tackle the whole garden at once, take an hour or so of the lighter evenings 2-3 times a week and start chipping away at the jobs that are waiting. This will have the two fold benefit of waking your body up to the increased activity and getting the job into more manageable proportions.
Prolonged periods of unfamiliar and repetitive activities are bound to put strain on local parts of your body. Digging for example is a real challenge to the low back as we bend to lift the soil to turn it. All bending if prolonged, can lead to pressure on our low back discs and ligaments with the potential for strains, and then pains.
The very British attitude of pushing on till it’s done, comes with a price. “I’m not stopping till I’ve finished weeding this whole flower bed”, “I’m going to finish digging this whole patch before stopping”. Better to vary activities as much as possible. Weed some of the vegetable patch, then rest a little, you can always get back to it tomorrow. If you do have more time, come back and perhaps mow the lawn or some other more upright activity.
Pacing yourself is the key to avoiding disaster. It really is important to listen to your body and STOP when you are becoming tired or are feeling pain.
Some Important Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t charge in and spend all day in the garden at the beginning of the gardening season.
Do pace yourself and tackle big jobs in smaller pieces, take regular breaks. Be realistic, if necessary get help to “break the back” of bigger start of season jobs like the digging over, or first hedge/lawn cut etc.
Don’t work on through pain or when your feeling tired.
Do take regular breaks, and vary activities.
Don’t bend forward for too long at a time.
Do stretch after bending forward, stand up straight, hands on hips and slowly and gently rotate your hips as an exercise to counteract the forwards movement. Just like using a hula-hoop.
Don’t bend forward more than you have to.
Do buy long handled garden tools where possible, or kneel to weed etc. A foam kneeling pad makes for more comfortable kneeling.
Don’t let your body get dehydrated. Muscles and ligaments are much more likely to be injured when low on fluids.
Do take regular drinks during physical exercise, which create a great excuse for a little break.
Don’t spend too long on the some posture or activity, i.e. pruning all your shrubs in one day. You wouldn’t spend hours on the same machine at the gym.
Do vary activities throughout the day to avoid repetitive strain type injuries.
Don’t heave huge bags of compost around.
Do buy smaller bags, use a wheel barrow or “decant” bulk material from bags into a bucket or wheelbarrow to carry more easily.
Strains and sprain from overdoing it in the garden, will often reveal themselves the next morning once the inflammation has had a chance to build up. Back, neck or other joint injuries can be very stiff and painful in the first 24 hours or so after unaccustomed use, and give the impression that something terrible has happened, don’t panic. Use your normal pain relief medication from the chemist, rest as much as you need to, but, as a general rule with simple back and neck pain gentle activity and movements will actually reduce your recovery time.
Any pain pattern not beginning to settle down within 3-5 days may need further investigation and treatment. Our osteopaths are always happy to speak on the phone with any patient wanting to talk over a health problem, gardening related or otherwise. Don’t hesitate to call 01208 872867.