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Weed Out Spring Back Injuries

Another season, another back hazard. Snow-related perils are, mercifully, at bay, but the same can not be said for the hazards of gardening season. At Saratoga Spine, we see many patients who need treatment for painful back injuries resulting from overzealous and unprepared gardening.

For many, gardening is pleasurable and satisfying undertaking and hardly seems like a chore. In fact, there are health benefits to getting out there with a spade and a hoe. Performing tasks with proper form and restrained gusto can improve cardiac health, manual dexterity, strength and flexibility, while giving an emotional ‘lift.’ The downside of gardening is the risk of straining or injuring your back. As with shoveling, gardening involves bending, twisting and heavy lifting.

Here are some tips and some specialized gardening tools that may help save your back:

GARDEN DESIGN

  • raised bed gardeningGenerally, if you select your plants and shrubs with longevity and low maintenance in mind, and plant the most difficult to care for in the most accessible spaces, you have already done your back a favor.
  • Follow proper gardening practices to keep weeds at bay; mulch generously and plant ground covers.
  • At the proper height—ideally waist high —a raised bed can almost completely eliminate bending and can curtail reaching and twisting. Make sure your work table is also at a comfortable height.
  • Finally, leave space between rows of plants for easier access.

ERGONOMIC GARDEN TOOLS

First off, look for back friendly, long-handled tools for both big and small jobs. As much as practical, try before you buy. Make sure rakes, shovels and other tools are the right length for your height, have a comfortable center of gravity and aren’t too heavy. All gardening tools should have a comfortable, well-designed handle.

stand-up-weed-eater helps prevent back injuries• Take the pain out of weeding your lawn and garden with one of several stand-up weed pullers now available, including Fiskars UpRoot and Hound Dog’s Weed Hound.

Wheel barrows/garden carts come in varying heights. Some also have special features such as bend-free dumping handles.

• Say goodbye to small handhelds, such as trowels, cultivators and hand forks. Now all of these are available with long reach handles.

Darlac Snapper pruner

Darlac Snapper pruner

  • Lightweight, long-handled pruners are made to be used with just one hand, and are excellent at light trimming and deadheading.
  • Take advantage of electric gardening tools which take the effort and strain out of edging and trimming.
  • Long-reach claws are not just for the disabled, and can be very handy in the yard and garden. Telescoping fruit pickers with suction cups or simple claw-type reacher-grabbers are very useful in the garden for removing fallen branches and twigs and relocating small rocks and debris.
    Zoro Grabber

    Zoro Grabber

  • Did you know a full watering can might weigh over 15 pounds? A better option for your back is to use a hose with a wand nozzle instead.

BEST BACK-FRIENDLY PRACTICES

No matter if you’re shoveling snow or puttering in a garden, you have to respect your back. Keep these basic rules in mind and you can spring up as effortlessly as your flowers:

  • Warm up your muscles with a quick jog-in-place and some muscle-loosening stretches. See https://www.saratogaspine.com/treatment-options/exercises/.
  • Use good posture. Keep your back in a straight, comfortable, neutral position, and avoid slouching, twisting and excessive leaning or reaching.
  • Use your legs, or even better, avoid heavy lifting. Squat and bend your knees so you are using more powerful thigh muscles rather than back muscles. Better still, get someone to help with large loads.
  • Vary your tasks to avoid repetitive motion injuries and back strain.
  • Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

Incorporating these practices into your landscaping routine will allow you to enjoy gardening to the fullest. Happy planting!

 

Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery