Planting Proper Ergonomics for Gardening Success

Planting Proper Ergonomics for Gardening Success

Proper ergonomics are the root system to a healthy body. We are creatures of movement, whether it be our weekday jog, weekend gardening, or having fun chasing after our young ones. Ergonomics may be defined as the posture we put our body into so that we may efficiently complete a task. Today we are going to concentrate on the pride of Victoria, gardening.

Gardening is a love that fills the hearts and hands of so many of us on Vancouver Island. Because it is a hobby that we take part in so often it is important that we utilize proper body mechanics so that we reduce the risk of injury. Common injuries associated with gardening are either derived from a) repetitive stress, or b) traumatic injury. Traumatic injuries generally occur when working with tools, while repetitive stress injuries are caused from sustained periods of improper posture and biomechanics. Hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, low back, and knees are most subject to fatigue and wear-and-tear.

First of all, let’s get our stretch on! A good 10 minute stretch that concentrates on the spine and common areas of injury before hitting the garden will decrease joint and muscle ache while preparing the body for sustained activity.

Next, we need to master correct ergonomics when standing and forward bending. Once we have established proper posture we may safely move though each movement more efficiently and effortlessly. Here’s a great tip to kick start us off: during movement, the closer we keep our limbs (esp the elbows) toward our core when lifting/ pulling/ etc.., the stronger, more stabilized and quicker we will be. Here are the proper ergonomics that will give years to your passion.

Standing:

Keep the legs at shoulder width with our weight equally distributed at the balls of our feet. The best way to do this is by slightly contracting the abdominals, inner thighs and buttocks. Elongate the spine by drawing the top of the head toward the sky and drawing the naval inward toward the spine. Make sure that the chin is drawn back and the shoulders are contracted back and down by contracting the muscles of the mid back, not from the shoulder girdle muscles. Allow our arms to hang with a slight external rotation (palms will tend to face forward). This posture, when simply standing or working, decreases the stress on weight bearing joints, such as the low back, knees, hips, base of the neck, and feet. Avoid standing for more than 30 consecutive minutes. If working above shoulder level, limit yourself to 5 minute work intervals.

Bending:

It is important to keep the core stabilized and allow the majority of the work to take place at the thighs and hips, rather than the low back. Bilateral or unilateral bending at the knees are essential. Keep the chin and shoulders tucked like we talked about, and try to make sure that all movement from your limbs takes place as close to the body as possible. Make a point to contract the abdominals while lifting with a straight back. After 25-30 minutes of work, get up and walk around for 5 minutes or perform a less intensive task before continuing your work again.

There are amazing ergonomic tools out there that are designed to reduce the stressors that nag us after hours in our yard. Make sure that these tools are right for you. Just because the “Trowell 5000” is the best tool on the market does not mean that it will work perfectly with your body. Choose all tools based on ergonomic feel. When choosing these types of tools, make sure that the grips and lengths of the tool are best suited for you. Essentially, the tool’s grip should have an indented groove for the thumb to rest in, and its width should allow the thumb and the second digit to touch. As a substitute to excessive reaching, use longer tools to save your back. And please always wear gloves! Save your hands and protect yourself from bacterial and parasitic infections.

Remember that you have only one wonderful body to work with, so treat it with extreme care. Use a wheelbarrow, ask for help, and take breaks. For more extensive information follow us at your local garden group workshops!! If we currently are not scheduled with your Vancouver Island garden group, contact your group representative and give us a shout. We would love to grab our gloves and come down and help. See you all soon and keep those gardens looking gorgeous!!