Well, we’ve had a bit of rain but it is still Summer and the gardening season – which makes some of you happy and some of you slightly worried when you think of all of those back breaking tasks that we need to face at some point over the next few months.
The thing is we CAN undertake a lot of gardening jobs without causing pain – Our bodies are very well adapted to a variety of tasks, but we need to pace ourselves and not just keep going until we can’t move.
– Firstly, face the direction in which you want to carry the weight. Always lift using a relaxed, straight back. Make sure your legs are at least your hips’ width apart with the knees bent. Keep your head and shoulders directly above your waist and keep the weight you are carrying as close to you as possible – avoid twisting.
– Avoid bending from the waist, which increases the stress on your lower back. Never keep the knees straight, as this will lead to over-stretching and damage to your back and never lift while twisting from the waist.
– Try and lift with a ‘broad base’ i.e. your feet about shoulder width apart or more. This will make you more stable.
– Don’t lift with your arms straight out, keep the elbows bent and to your side to minimise the stress on your back.
– Make sure you balance or secure the weight before you start moving. (It is easier to carry a bowling ball in a bowling ball bag than in large cardboard box where it can roll around.)
– Putting the weight down can often cause just as many injuries as lifting it up. If possible, put the weight on something waist height rather than the floor. If you do have to put it on the floor, try and keep your shoulders hips and knees pointing in the same direction, have a ‘wide base’ and bend your knees rather than your back.
Loading and unloading
– Loading a weight into a car or van is difficult at the best of times, so it is even more important to use the best technique possible. If you have been sitting in the car/van for a while, go for a short walk to loosen your muscles and joints before lifting. Having lifted the weight, rest it on the bumper where possible and then push it into the vehicle, keeping your back straight and your knees bent. Always put lighter objects in first, pushing towards the back, so that it is not too strenuous to push them in or to pull them out when you reach your destination.
– It is not just the weight, but the size and shape of an object that can make it hard to carry so, where possible, break loads into smaller and more manageable chunks. Don’t try and lift more than you can reasonably manage at a time; better to do several journeys that hurt yourself at the first hurdle!
– Never lift and then twist and avoid the temptation to straighten your legs. This is just as important when taking bags or boxes out of the vehicle.
Warm up, wear the right gear and ask for help…
It may sound odd but, before attempting this kind of heavy work, it is a good idea to stretch and warm up your muscles. You should also look at what you are wearing for the task at hand. Loose-fitting clothing that do not restrict you movement is best, together with comfortable, supportive shoes with a good grip on the sole.
Finally, don’t attempt to lift, carry or transfer heavy items alone. Use a trolley and ask for help at the garden centre/DIY centre; take someone with you to give you a hand; buy a sack barrow to assist with transferring materials at home. Thinking ahead could really give your back a helping hand.