Gardening may not seem like the most dangerous pastime in the world, but like most things in life, it can be damaging if done incorrectly. In 2004, over 87,000 people in the UK visited A&E for an injury they sustained while gardening. While there are of course some ways that we can sustain a sudden and unexpected injury while gardening, most of the injuries that are typically associated with the hobby tend to be problems that build up gradually over time. We’re going to look at what these injuries are, and what you can do to prevent them.
This is a topic that we cover quite regularly, as overuse injuries can occur as a result of almost any activity. Everything from writing to swimming can cause overuse injuries, and the at-risk area can usually be easily identified based on the activity. For gardening, the parts of your body that you are most likely to injure from overuse are your hands and wrists.
Gardening is of course a very hands-on activity, so this should not be a major surprise. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t stop this pain before it begins. First and foremost is not to spend too long at any one activity. It might be tempting to go and pull up all the weeds, or prepare all of the soil in one go, but you would be much better off breaking tasks like that into smaller projects. Rather than going out and doing all of a task in one go, you will be much less sore if you do a little bit of everything at a time.
The wrists are usually injured because people use them at a bad angle. This is often a result of using tools like shovels or trowels. The most effective way to prevent wrist injuries is to ensure that you do not force your wrist into any unnatural positions, and make sure that your wrists feel comfortable at all times.
On the topic of hands, it is also worth noting that gloves are a necessity for avid gardeners. Many people opt not to use gloves, as they can be a bit inconvenient, and can take away the sense of getting in touch with nature. However, the gloves do more than keep your hands clean and safe from thorns. Just like how doing the same task over and over can lead to overuse injuries, performing a lot of tasks with your hands can be exhausting on the skin. Rough textures, friction, and repetitive movements will all add up and leave your hands in tatters if you think gloves are optional.
Posture is one of the most adversely affected elements of our health when it comes to gardening. This is because gardening tends to involve a lot of lifting, kneeling, hunching, and so on. As we mentioned above, it’s best to try and do as many different tasks as possible, but unfortunately, there are few tasks in gardening that are good for our posture. The best thing you can do to avoid developing any problems in this area is to always be aware of your position. When sitting, try to sit in a number of different ways. This will not only prevent you from falling into a bad habit, but will also give different parts of your body a break at different times. Try to mix up your tasks so that you switch between standing, sitting and kneeling. If you can sit down to do a task, such as repotting plants, you should take the chance whenever possible. It will be better for your posture, and will make the whole process less trying and more enjoyable.
The most important thing to remember to avoid doing damage to yourself is that pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop. If you start to feel any discomfort, give yourself a break. Pushing through the pain may seem like an admirable quality, but it will most likely just make things worse.