How to - The Healthy Gardener

Stretch before garden chores

Prevent injury when gardening

Like other physiotherapists across the country, Linda Adamson of Thunder Bay, Ontario, can count on seeing a few sore backs and shoulder tendonitis this spring. That's because people don't always limber up before attacking their gardens each year, she says. “The beauty of gardening is that it takes you through the full body range of movements—standing, squatting and bending. But as with any physical exercise, it's wise to ease into it,” says Adamson.

“If you have a back problem, or to prevent one, the number one rule is to break up your day,” she advises. Adamson, who is also a Master Gardener, paces herself by doing all the prep work—such as walking about the garden to plan out her day—before she starts digging and planting. And that's after doing a few warm-up stretches first. She's also careful about moving heavy items.

“When you bend to do a job, you add 100 per cent more of a load to your back than when you're standing; bending combined with twisting adds an additional 600 per cent, and that's before factoring in the weight of the soil or whatever it is you're lifting.” She recommends using wheelbarrows, with two wheels at the front for better balance, or garden carts to move things about. If you do lift heavy items, make sure your knees are bent so your back is straight, and avoid twisting or reaching. Move with the item; keep it in front of you and close to your body.

April 24 to May 24 is National Physiotherapy month. For more information check out the Canadian Physiotherapy Association's website at

Tool time
The right tools are your best friends for avoiding injury in the garden, says physiotherapist Linda Adamson. Herewith, a few of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association's top tool tips.
• Make sure gardening tool handles are comfortable to grasp.
• Use telescopic or extended handles to eliminate strain from reaching. Watering wands, for example, are ideal for hanging baskets.
• Keep digging and cutting tools sharp to reduce the amount of effort required.
• Use knee pads or kneeling stools when working at ground level. Kneeling stools also provide support when you stand up.

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