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. And, because it’s hobby that we take part in so often, it is important we utilize proper body mechanics. This is in order to reduce 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.
To address this, first of all, let’s get our stretch on! Before hitting the garden, try this 10 minute stretch that concentrates on the spine and common areas of injury. This will decrease joint and muscle ache, while preparing the body for sustained activity. Additionally, we need to master correct ergonomics when standing, and forward bending. Once we have established this proper posture, we may safely move through each movement more efficiently and effortlessly.
*Here’s a great tip to kick things off: during movement, the closer you keep your limbs (especially the elbows) toward your core when lifting/pulling/etc. the stronger, more stabilized, and quicker you will be. Now, here are the proper ergonomics that will add years to your passion.___
Keep the legs at shoulder width with your weight equally distributed at the balls of your feet. To do this best, slightly contract the abdominals, inner thighs, and buttocks. Then, elongate the spine by drawing the top of your head toward the sky, and drawing the naval inward toward the spine. At the same time, make sure your chin is drawn back, and your shoulders are contracted back and down by contracting the muscles of the mid back–not from the shoulder girdle muscles. Then, allow your 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. Additionally, avoid standing for more than 30 consecutive minutes. And, if working above shoulder level, limit yourself to 5 minute work intervals.
It is important to keep the core stabilized. In this way, allow the majority of the work to take place at the thighs and hips, rather than the low back. And bilateral, or unilateral bending at the knees are essential. Keep the chin and shoulders tucked as mentioned before, and try to make sure all movement from your limbs takes place as close to the body as possible. And 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.
Additionally, there are amazing ergonomic tools out there 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. Therefore, choose all tools based on ergonomic feel. And, 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. Also, as a substitute to excessive reaching, use longer tools to save your back. And please always wear gloves! This will 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. 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 to help.
See you all soon. And keep those gardens looking gorgeous!