Ergonomic garden tools are designed for maximum comfort, ease of use, efficiency and safety. When combined with proper preparation and techniques, you can help protect the six most-injured or strained parts of your body when gardening: back, elbows, knees, neck, shoulders and wrists.
Before heading outside to perform any gardening tasks, be sure to warm up with stretches. First focus on wrists, holding the stretches for 10-20 seconds. Then work the legs and knees by doing mini squats, bending hips and knees. This will supply your leg muscles with oxygen and blood flow to help avoid injuries. You should spend at least 10 minutes warming up.
Save Your Back
- Minimize reaching by keeping items close to you. Use long-handled tools instead of reaching.
- Alternate sitting, kneeling and standing every 30 minutes to alleviate strain in one area for too long.
- Avoid bending over for any length of time; bend at the knees to avoid additional strain on the lower back.
- Rake leaves onto a tarp and slide it along the ground to eliminate lifting.
- Use a long PVC pipe cut at a slant at one end to seed rows; drop the seeds through the pipe to plant with ease.
Forget the Elbow Grease
- Avoid repetitive motions. Use a weeder instead of pulling weeds by twisting your forearm palm up and down repetitively.
- Keep your wrists in line with your forearm when grasping, pulling or pushing to decrease tension.
- Work with “thumbs up.”
Protect those Knees
- Use knee pads or a garden kneeling pad.
- Change positions frequently to relieve repetitive stress.
- Wear supportive shoes to take stress off of the knees.
- Condition knees (and back) with stretching and strengthening exercises.
Avoid a Pain in the Neck
- Keep your shoulder blades pulled together so you don’t round your back/shoulders while extending your arms.
- Consider having an elevated garden bed.
- Stretch your neck before and after gardening.
Don’t Shoulder the Burden
- Use both arms when possible.
- Work below shoulder level. If you must reach to perform some gardening tasks, do so for 5 minutes or less.
Flip of the Wrist — Not
- Keep your wrists in a neutral position. You lose up to 25% of your grip when you bend your wrist.
- Avoid motion extremes going up, down and sideways.
- Always bend from the hips rather than from your waist. Drink plenty of water as dehydration reduces flexibility. And after gardening, apply cold packs to your knees and lower back (not directly on the skin) for about 15-20 minutes.
Sources: ProCare Physical Therapy, AARP and Power Rebound.