It is April! Spring is in the air and the great outdoors is beckoning for a visit. So many choices, so little time.
Many people opt to take care of business before enjoying a little recreation. As a homeowner, business can mean getting your yard and garden ready for spring enjoyment. Winter did a number on your landscaping, so a little sprucing may be needed.
Gardening is very physical. Just as if you are going to do a workout, you should prepare and give your body a warmup by stretching. A little correct limbering up never hurt anyone! A cool down period when you are done is also a plus.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 outdoor garden tool-related accidents each year. Let’s try to avoid becoming a statistic!
If you are already experiencing orthopedic problems, speak to your doctor before doing any physical activity. You may need to adjust the way you garden, you don’t want to exacerbate your symptoms.
Helpful hints before hitting the yard:
- Dress appropriately for the work environment: Wear sturdy shoes or boots that provide adequate traction on slippery grass.
- Clear away debris and unneeded objects from the work area. Using a tool versus your hands can avoid hand injury but unknown objects in the soil.
- Something as simple as using a bench, or even better, a rolling bench for seating while you work will change your body position and relieve stress in certain areas.
- It is almost impossible to garden without being on your knees. Sitting back on your knees is a hard position for the knee joint. Getting up from this position requires you to push most of your body weight up with your hands and wrists. Kneeling for extended periods of time can cause knee injury as will repeated strain on the knee. Use knee pads to prevent these conditions if you cannot use a bench.
- Choose lighter weight gardening tools that are easier to manage. Choose tools that have a comfortable grip, is it the right size for your hand? Longer handles are helpful. Make sure to use the proper tool for the exact job. Following manufacturer’s instructions, use safety locks and keep the tools away from the children
- Buy smaller bags of soil and supplies so you are not carrying heavy weights.
- Be wary of a good position for your body type, good posture during gardening will avoid stress on muscles, tendons. and nerves.
- Wear protective gloves, this will not just reduce blistering. A good gardening glove will protect your skin from unwanted soil additives like fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, and fungus that live in the soil.
- Repetitive motions such as digging, raking, trimming, pruning, or planting may cause irritation to skin, tendons, or nerves. Rotate your activities every 15 minutes or so to vary the body parts you are using to give other parts a rest.
- Make sure to put all of the tools away after use to prevent future injuries and maintain the integrity of the tools.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, don’t ignore it. Take a break or a day off, continuing the activity can make it worse. If symptoms persist, see your orthopedic doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment will get you back into your garden and living your life sooner.
Dr. Marshall P. Allegra is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in private practice in Monmouth County for over 25 years. As an experienced diagnostician, Dr. Allegra can expertly determine gardening related injuries, and then determine the best treatment options to return you back to full functionality and range of motion as quickly as possible and avoiding long term implications.