McFarland Clinic

Four Tips for Safe Gardening

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March 17, 2014

Spring is near and many of us are anxious to get outside and work in our gardens. “Gardening can be relaxing and therapeutic but anyone that has carried a 40-pound bag of mulch or pushed a lawnmower understands that gardening is a workout,” says Caryn King, MPT, McFarland Clinic Carroll Physical Therapist. Following four simple tips can make yard work enjoyable and free from injury.

  1. Maintain the natural curves of your spine as you work. In this neutral alignment, the spine is in position to absorb shock. Keep objects and surfaces close to you. When weeding, sit on a bucket or stool close to the bed and use long handled tools. Always bend at the hips and knees when lifting or shoveling keeping the curves in the spine. Avoid twisting your back when hoeing or raking by pivoting at your feet.
  2. Keep work areas at waist height when possible. When watering hanging plants or trimming bushes, use long handled tools or a step stool or ladder to avoid strain to the neck and shoulders. If possible, raise the spigot used for outside watering. Consider raised beds for flowers or vegetables to avoid bending. If work area is lower than waist height, kneel or half kneel instead of squatting. It may be helpful to use a kneeling stool with a handle making it easier to get back up. Use strategies such as mulching to prevent excessive weed growth.
  3. Always think before you do. Often injuries could be prevented if proper preparation is done. Before lifting plants or large bags of soil, decide if it can be avoided. Can you decrease the load and make numerous trips? Do you need someone to assist you? Are you able to use a wheelbarrow or cart? If you are carrying plants from one area to another, is the path free of obstacles? In general, use common sense.
  4. Consider all options before making decisions. Using ground cover or mulch reduces area needing to be mowed. Selecting low maintenance plants decreases work. Think about where water sources are and how far garden is from home to prevent carrying vegetables long distances or dragging long hoses. Purchase supplies in small, lightweight quantities.

“Spring gardening can be a wonderful way to increase your activity level and relieve stress. It may be your favorite pastime,” says King.“By following these guidelines and tips, you can take some of the work out of yard work.”

The McFarland Carroll Physical Therapy Department is located in the lower level of the clinic building at 1214 S Grant Road. Our office hours are Monday – Thursday 7 am to 7 pm and Friday 7 am to 6 pm. For questions call 712-792-3311.

Physical Therapy is also available at the following McFarland Clinic locations:

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