Lifting and carrying for smart gardeners
The most common gardening related pain complaint is back pain; less common problem areas are the knees and hands. This is no surprise given the repetitive tasks, sustained bending, frequent lifting and awkward positioning that is involved in gardening. But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up on the pleasures of watching your garden plot grow in the summer.
Here’s how to lift and carry smartly and safely
✓ Position yourself directly in front of the object
✓ Bend at your knees and hips (not your waist) so that your legs do most of the work
✓ Keep you’re back straight
✓ Keep the object as close to your body as possible
✓ Lift by standing up, and do so as smoothly as possible
✓ Do not twist your body during the lift
✓ Do not lift heavy objects above your head (ladders, stools and pulleys were invented for this)
Here’s how to carry and put down objects:
✓ Keep the object you are carrying as close to your body as possible
✓ Take small walking steps
✓ Do not twist at the waist while carrying; instead, pivot your feet to change direction
✓ When it comes time to put down a heavy object, drop it if you can
✓ If you can’t drop the object (something breakable comes to mind); Repeat the motions you used to lift; bend at the knees and hips and then put the object down as gently / smoothly as possible
If at all possible use a wheelbarrow form the shed to carry heavy objects remembering to use; lifting and putting down techniques to load and unload the wheelbarrow
Other strategies to keep you pain-free with gardening and yard work
Despite your best intentions you may still end up feeling achy after a working in your plot and communal garden. If you wake up sore and stiff from doing gardening work, try a stretching and strengthening routine to complement your gardening activities or maybe, yoga and physiotherapy.
✓ Ease into gardening. Gradually increase to amount of time you spend working on your plot and in the garden just as you would with any sport or physical activity that you haven’t practiced in several months. Start with 20-30 minutes of gardening and then slowly increase from there. Don’t rush to finish all your work on the weekend.
✓ Take frequent breaks and change positions frequently. Have a rest or alternate between different garden tasks. Prolonged bending or awkward postures can fatigue lower back muscles and lead to back injuries or back pain.
✓ Remember to get close to your plot and garden work. Kneel to plant and weed. You could try using a special gardening mat or use kneepads. If you have knee or hip pain avoid putting pressure on these areas by sitting on an upside down bucket or garden bench. Consider using specialized gardening tools to avoid prolonged reaching.
✓ Cultivate comfort. Wear appropriate gardening gear, protect hands from blisters, thorns cuts and insect bites by investing in a good pair of gardening gloves. Cotton gloves are good for light gardening chores, while leather gloves are recommended for pruning and bush removal. Wear wide brim hats, light-weight long- sleeved shirts and sunscreen with a high SPF. Drink plenty of non caffeinated fluids, avoid being in the garden during the heat of the day and take breaks in the shade.