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If you work on a computer you are undoubtedly aware of the words carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This
painful health problem cannot be credited to the professional world alone. In the 1995, January edition of
Physicians and Sports Medicine Magazine, it was noted that gardening was listed among the ten occupations
with high rates of CTS. How is it that one of your favorite past times, gardening, has become a
health topic in a magazine? Quite simply, gardening requires at least one of the following:
These, combined with muscles being over used and joints being tested to the limits can make an afternoon in
the garden very painful.
- frequent and repetitive use of the hand or wrist doing movements that are the same or similar
- regular tasks that require the generation of force by the hand
- tasks that require awkward hand and body positions
- frequent, lengthy pressure over the wrist or base of the palm.
The discomfort can be combated in a few ways. The first that comes to mind is to give up digging in
the dirt. This is not an option at our home and I am sure a lot of you feel the same way! That brings us to
the moderation/common sense approach that will allow you to continue gardening.
Consider the person who goes jogging. These people do not put on their running shoes and
head out. They warm up by stretching, bending and perhaps even walking a short distance before they start
their run. Gardening should be no different. If you think about the activities you normally do in an afternoon
of gardening, you probably use as many if not more body parts than that of a runner.
It's time to incorporate some warm up exercises on your way to the back yard. Think about what you
will be doing in the garden. Remember, warm ups are not meant to be painful. Ten repetitions of each will help
you be more flexible. If, while you are doing your warm up, you feel pain, stop what you are doing and re-consider
your gardening plans. Listen to your body!
In a need to get your tools and other materials to the designated area don't
aggravate your body by trying to carry everything at once. Make several trips. You may not think you have
all day to get your chore done; however, at the end of the day you will be happier for not making your
body the subject of one load. There are several mobile garden carts on the market that will make your
life a lot easier and gardening that much more pleasurable.
Plan the lifting projects when you have someone to help move things. Help doesn't mean the use of the new
wheelbarrow to get the bale of peat moss from the shed to the front yard. You still have to get it into the
wheelbarrow! Do some bending and stretching exercises and then lift carefully. If your load is on the ground,
lift with legs slightly apart, flex your knees and bend at the hips. Contemplate what kind of damage you can do
by trying to carry a heavy object at the end of out-stretched arms. This is nothing but trouble for shoulder and
arm muscles, wrists, fingers not to mention what it is doing to your back, joints and body muscles in general.
If you do move heavy items by yourself, ideally, you should slide it off of a bench or the tailgate of a vehicle.
Keep the object as close to your body as possible and try to carry it in front of you with your body straight.
Alternatively, if possible, roll the item to its destination or onto a piece of tarp and drag it.
Digging should be done with intermittent breaks in order that your body can rest from the repetition.
Before you start, try some leg stretches and knee bends for the legs. Keep in mind that digging isn't just the use of legs,
the shoulders and arms need to be warmed up as well. Try lifting a can of soup in each hand, straight armed from waist
to shoulder height and back to waist. Use the proper tools for the task at hand
Weeds have the ability to grow the longest roots and the shortest tops. Don't let them provoke you
into yanking and pulling!
Deal with your weeds as if they were a plant you are going to transplant to another
To ensure you get all of the root and top, use tools that will give you the ability to work in different
positions comfortably. Long handled tools or tools with extended handles work well in places that would
normally require stretching and then pulling. If it is necessary for you to be on your hands and knees to weed
or dead head, try doing some knee bends and leg stretches, kneel on some sort of padding or use
knee pads. We tend to do all or our gardening with one hand. Try using the other hand for awhile. Not only
will you rest the over used arm, shoulder, wrist and hand, you will give the opposite side of your brain a chance to show
what it can do!
Bending over for any length of time can very quickly become painful to the lower back and legs.
holds true for any form of low to the ground gardening.
It is necessary to take breaks. Walk around, go for a
glass of water or sit in your shade garden and sketch what the next flower bed is going to look like. When you
return to your project, rather than kneeling or bending, sit on the ground, or better yet, a garden stool or cart
that carries all of your tools.
Ergonomics, which is the study of people's efficiency in a work environment, encourages people
to take a close look at how they do things, the tools they use and what if any, alternatives are available to improve your lifestyle and especially your health. By doing a few simple exercises, using the right tools and changing a few bad habits, you can continue to do the things you enjoy for a long time.
Other Related Pages.
Growing the Amaryllis