Gardening related injuries

Avoid gardening injuries this spring with our top tips

Georgie Mai Clinic Director

Georgie Mai-Manning
Clinic Director

Each Spring, from the Easter half-term break and as we head into the May bank holidays, we see lots of people who are in pain and worried about injuries that have happened whilst working in the garden. These can be anything from rotator cuff (shoulder) problems and lower limb muscle strains to muscular back or spinal disc injuries. All these gardening related injuries can get in the way of doing what you love and enjoying the outside.

Clinic Lead Practitioner, Luke Denham says:

“Because most people don’t think of gardening as an exercise, I think sometimes we underestimate the strain it can place on our bodies, whether it be lifting heavy plant pots, kneeling to sort out bedding plants, or lifting heavy gardening tools overhead to trim hedges and trees. Whether gardening for you is an enjoyable hobby or a necessary chore, it is important that we look after ourselves when working, sometimes for hours at a time, out in the garden doing things that differ to our normal routine.”

Many of the gardening related injuries that we see at this time of year are avoidable, where consideration is made in advance as to how they are carried out. And so therefore, we would like to share our top tips for avoiding an injury to your back, shoulder, elbows or knees this spring and summer.

Plan a variety of work for each gardening session, and over the weeks/months

The most common cause of a gardening-related back injury is overuse, where muscles that aren’t used to doing a task for a great deal of time will spasm, lock-on, and cause pain.

To avoid this, take some time to think about the tasks that you need to carry out and when, and create a brief programme of work. This gives you the opportunity to schedule everything that needs doing – this will help keep you organised, but more importantly it will enable you to proactively plan against doing too much of one thing for too long, therefore lowering your risk of injury.

Break up high-strain tasks such as digging, weeding or lopping into shorter periods. Your body will thank you for a variety of tasks where you are doing more things but for a smaller amount of time.

Pace yourself and take regular breaks

Even if you are fit and healthy, gardening is a tough workout. You use different muscle groups and often move your body in ways that it isn’t accustomed to. Try to stick to a pattern of 25-30mins activity, followed by 5-10mins of active rest or walking. Gardening can be a great way of keeping in shape and is a good form of exercise. But just as we approach all activity, rest periods are essential, and are key to keeping you injury free.

Be careful of high-power, sudden movements

Some examples of this type of movement include; starting a petrol mower or tugging roots from the ground which can result in a muscle or tendon strain, ligament sprain or even rupture. Brace your mid-section, lock in your shoulder blades and move cautiously to start with, building to the force required. If anything doesn’t feel right, stop and try it another way, or ask for some assistance.

Work at a height that is kind to your back and shoulders

Consider using a potting table or similar for tubs, bags of compost and any job you would otherwise be tempted to do on the ground. This means that your back’s extensor muscles aren’t having to work so hard, for such a long amount of time. It also removes the need to kneel on the floor for extended periods, and your knees will certainly thank you for this!

Practice safe lifting

Be responsible when lifting heavy items, and if it’s something you need help with, wait for someone to help you lift it – there are no points for bravado when shifting a heavy plant pot! Bending your knees and driving the movement from your legs rather than straightening up through your back can help to prevent injury and make lifting easier. Your legs are stronger than your back, so use them well!

The right tools can save your back, shoulders and hands

Using tools with long handles that allow you to stand and not stoop also assist with leverage, making garden work more manageable. If you’re working on your borders and are using tools with short handles, using a kneeling pad or sitting on the floor or a low stool can provide safer positions to work from. Consider also spending a little more money on your tools and choosing something with ergonomic handles.

And finally, don’t be a hero!

You don’t have to do everything by yourself, and it is important to know the limits of your body. Determine which tasks you can easily do and which tasks you may need assistance with. Consider hiring someone to do the heavy work or asking a favour from friends and family.

We hope you enjoy your time in the garden this spring and summer. Of course, if you need us for guidance or injury assessment and rehabilitation please reach out.

How we can help

We are a team of pain and injury professionals, here to help you with anything from a niggling ache through to recovery from a more serious injury whether your injury occurs suddenly or creeps up over time.  In a Pain & Injury session we will fully assess to see what is causing your issue, explain, treat, rehabilitate and prescribe / guide your rehab work under our expert care.

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