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Dig Gardening? Watch Your Back!

Bending over while weeding and planting can strain your spine

SATURDAY, March 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- For many people, spring is first and foremost a season of gardening. But before you give in to tilling and planting mania, take a few minutes to consider your back.

As the Texas Workers Compensation Commission (TWCC) points out, pulling weeds, raking a lawn or just digging a hole can strain the back in painful ways, and frequent squatting and kneeling isn't always the best for it either.

In fact, any movement that requires lifting, twisting or turning -- carrying bags of mulch, soil or fertilizer, for example -- can injure back muscles. To make sure your flower bed doesn't land you in bed, here's what the TWCC recommends:

  • Avoid squatting and bending as much as possible.
  • Instead of bending over to work on your garden, kneel on a soft cushion.
  • Take a break to stretch your back every 15 to 30 minutes. Stand up slowly, take several deep breaths and place your hands on your upper buttocks while slowly arching backwards.
  • Use a dolly or wheelbarrow for hauling heavy objects, bagged materials or landscaping items. Always load materials toward the front of the wheelbarrow, too, using your legs to lift. Use the wheelbarrow's front wheel as a pivot when you need to make a turn.
  • Never lift anything without squatting, so your legs do most of the work. Grasp objects while squatting, then lift them by raising your entire body, keeping your weight balanced on both legs.
  • Avoid raking or digging for long, uninterrupted periods. Take frequent rests and alternate between using your right side and left side.
  • When mowing, always push with your legs and maintain a good, upright posture.
  • Remember to maintain your hydration while gardening by drinking to replace lost fluids.
  • Wear sunscreen or use a hat or scarf to shield your face and neck from the sun's rays. If possible, garden during the morning or later afternoon, when the sun's rays are not directly overhead.

More information

Find good tips on safe use of power tools for spring gardening at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

SOURCE: Texas Workers Compensation Commission
Consumer News