Gardening for Longevity
Unfortunately, yours truly has suffered a pretty severe ankle injury earlier in the week which has left me unable to enjoy the new lawn we’ve recently laid at home or put any additional flowers into the surrounding beds.
However, while laid up in my own bed, the idea occurred to me that gardening itself can often be the cause of injuries and ailments and, in the interest of everyone’s health, we thought we’d look into these maladies and how they can be prevented.
So here’s our list of the most common gardening injuries and strains and some tips on avoiding them so that you can garden more often and for longer.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Tragically, this injury is one that most commonly occurs while working at our desks and you’d think we might be safe from it by labouring outdoors but unfortunately we must remain wary of straining our hands and wrists in the garden.
The ongoing gripping and twisting movements involved in the use of trowels, miniature forks, and secateurs can lead to wrist strain or ligament damage.
As such it is vital that you wear gloves wherever possible to minimize impact and take regular breaks to avoid straining your hands.
Often we are working with sharp or abrasive materials while gardening, whether they be rose thorns, fern leaves, or sharp pieces of stone embedded in the soil.
As a result, cuts, scrapes, and deeper lacerations are not uncommon and because we are working in the dirt, these can also lead to infections later on.
As with carpal tunnel, gloves are your first line of defense and, if the temperature allows, covering your arms and other exposed skin can also help prevent these wounds in the first place. If you should get a cut though, immediately stop working to clean it, apply a disinfectant or antibacterial salve and cover the wound with a plaster or bandage to prevent contamination.
The stress we put on our muscles and joints can be deceptive while gardening because it is often cumulative small exertions that we engage in rather than large single movements.
Knees and backs are particularly susceptible to these complaints since the former often bear our weight while we work low to the ground and the latter can be easily strained when we are lifting heavy objects or if we remain in awkward physical positions for too long.
It is best to approach gardening like a sport in this regard and use the same protective measures. Warm-up with some simple movement exercises before you begin gardening and be sure to stay well hydrated.
If you are going to be kneeling a lot, wear pads to protect those joints from hard surfaces and perhaps treat them to an ice pack once you’ve finished for the day.
In the case of your back, be conservative in your efforts and never try to lift something extremely heavy on your own. When you are lifting, be sure to use proper form by maintaining a straight back while bending your knees and allowing your powerful thigh muscles to take the brunt of the load.
At last, we arrive at my own injury, which I only wish I’d gotten while gardening rather than tight rope walking at a festival. Sprained or ‘rolled’ ankles occur when we hyper-extend our foot to one side or the other rather than landing on the sole.
Gardens, particularly those under construction, are rife with holes and uneven ground that make it easy to misplace your foot while walking. Always mark these uneven hot spots clearly so you can remain vigilant and protect your ankle by wearing sturdy boots with good support and thick socks.
That’s the end of our piece on health-conscious gardening, as a final reminder during this hot weather make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and getting into the shade when you can. As always, thanks for reading.