Physiotherapy advice – a guide to safe gardening

Date: 10/05/2008

Safe Gardening – a guide from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP)
Transmitted Sunday garden programme. 22th April, 2008

Host: Tim Hubbard

With the weather improving, thousands of green fingered fanatics will be gearing up to start work in their gardens.

But physiotherapists are warning that the garden can be a danger zone, with over a quarter of a million people requiring A&E treatment every year for injuries sustained while taking care of their lawns (1).

At this time of year Physiotherapists often see patients who have sustained injuries whilst gardening. The following tips are designed to reduce the risk of injury. Prevention is better than cure.

Over the winter we tend to be less active and therefore become unfit for the physical exertion required during gardening. Because the weather presents us with limited opportunities to garden, we tend to be over enthusiastic during the short periods of good weather.

CSP Guide to Safe Gardening Spinal clinical specialist physiotherapist Helen Welch has come up with 10 top tips to help enthusiastic gardeners avoid a trip to casualty this summer. She recommends that anyone with pre-existing injuries or joint conditions seeks professional advice before commencing a new activity:

Before you start a gardening job, assess the equipment and number of people needed. Often a job is larger than expected so underestimate your ability rather than taking on too much.

As with any exercise, remember to do some gentle stretches. Suitable exercises can be found in the publications section at www.csp.org.uk If you would like a copy of this leaflet, Reg would be happy to send it to you. Please send a stamped addressed envelope to D’Souza Clinic, 19 The Crescent, Truro, Cornwall. TR1 3ES

When moving heavy soil or cuttings, divide the load into smaller more manageable amounts. Use a wheelbarrow if possible and make several trips.

If potting containers or hanging baskets, place them on a raised surface to reduce bending.

If kneeling in the garden, place a small piece of foam or padding under the knees to limit the stress placed on the joints.

After periods of sustained or repetitive bending, such as digging or weeding, stand up and gently lean backwards 5 – 10 times. Take breaks often and drink plenty of water.

When lifting, keep the load close to your body. Bend from your knees (not from your back) and push up with your legs.

Move with your tools and use them correctly. When raking, digging or weeding, move to the areas you are tending instead of stretching out. When mowing the lawn, keep your body in line with the mower and keep an upright posture.

Beware of uneven steps, slippery paths and broken paving slabs. Wear suitable clothes and sturdy footwear.

Put tools away when you are finished with them. If left lying around, they can cause serious injuries. Be especially vigilant if there are children or pets in the garden.

Remember, if you sustain an injury and don’t see an improvement within 48 hours; seek a referral to a chartered physiotherapist from your GP. Alternatively, you can make an appointment to see a physiotherapist privately.

(1) Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents: Home and Leisure Accident Statistics 2002. National estimate for accidents in the garden or on the lawn – 299,136; accidents in yard, driveway or path – 127,408; accidents on the patio – 18,840.

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