Spring is here and so are all the wonderful chores that go with lawn and garden care. Beautiful yards and spectacular flower displays don’t grow themselves- they require physical work.
Along with the beauty however, pain can follow. Sore backs and legs, wrists and arms can result from over eager use in the spring gardening rush. Muscles that relaxed for the winter are suddenly pressed into service at last summer’s level and rebel.
Instead of reaching for creams, lotions, heating pads and pain- killers during spring gardening here are five tips to help you avoid gardening pain.
Lift With Your Legs
Even though this sometimes goes without saying, we all forget from time to time when time is strained, we’re in a hurry or there’s “only-one-more-bag-to-go” that we have to move.
Lifting as little as ten pounds the wrong way can strain the back muscles and ligaments. Always bend your legs when you lift, keeping your back straight.
Try the “frog” lift. Set your feet near or on either side of the object and bend down at the knees, keeping your back straight. Grasp the object firmly, and stand up with your legs. You absolutely should not be bending over the object while you’re lifting- this is using your back.
Know what is too heavy and what isn’t. An object may be light enough to lift, but may be too big to lift safely. Get help when you need it.
Wrist and Knee Safety
Don’t bend over to pull weeds. Kneel down and use the proper tools. Many tools on the market allow the wrist to stay straight and take the strain off the joints when gardening for hours.
When kneeling, use a pad to keep knees from becoming sore.
Gas Lawn Mowers and Weed Eaters
When using power lawn mowers and weed eaters use eye safety goggles and hearing protection. These engines are a lot louder than people think. Military members who are assigned to mow are required to wear hearing protection even though they use the same lawn mowers as homeowners. Perhaps they know something the manufacturers don’t tell the public.
Push lawn mowers with your legs, not with your shoulders or arms. This will allow the entire yard to be completed without any injuries.
NEVER try to free anything near or under a lawn mower while the engine is running. People have lost fingers and hands this way. Turn the mower off, disconnect the spark plug and THEN free the object. Treat the lawn mower like a gun- assume it’s dangerous at all times.
Use Chemicals and Fertilizers Safely
When using fertilizers and herbicides always wear a facemask and protect your skin with gloves, wear long pants, shoes and long sleeves. Fertilizers are meant for plants, not for human skin. Read the package and follow the directions exactly. If it says not to allow children or pets to play within so many hours or days of application, then don’t.
A good rule of thumb to remember: if the package says it’s meant to kill something- bugs or plants, wear protection. If it’s meant to fertilize plants, wear protection. You’re not a plant.
Skin Safety in the Sun
Here’s the part that’s easiest of all to forget. Wearing long sleeves when gardening in the Southern United States seems like an oxymoron. Yet the sun will burn and damage skin year round. During the summer, pure cotton shirts and blouses will wick away perspiration and leave the wearer feeling cooler.
Sunscreen is a must for any skin tone or color outside. Apply approximately 20-30 minutes before going outside.
Wearing sunglasses protects the eyes from the glare of the sun and keeps a person from “squinting” their eyes. Before sunglasses, many more people suffered from cataracts, and practically anyone over 40 had wrinkles that made them look much older.
A large brimmed sun hat for gardening also works to keep the sun off the face and neck while working outside. Our forbearers had it right- the large farmers- hats and sunbonnets were practical and necessary. There are many styles of gardening hats available today.
Staying healthy in the garden isn’t hard- sometimes it just takes a few minutes to get the right tools together.