The root balls on B&B trees can
easily weigh over 500 lbs.
Pivot your feet and don't twist your back.
Push rather than pull if possible.
Keep items close to your body when lifting and carrying.
Lift the handles of a wheelbarrow at elbow height.
Keep your stomach muscles firm while lifting and performing
Lift with your legs not your back.
Know your limits. Test the weight of the load before
lifting. Lift smaller loads. Slide heavy bags to the edge of
the car trunk and to a wheelbarrow then wheel to garage or
site. Open large bags of soil or mulch and transfer to
Plan ahead and remove obstacles from your path.
When shoveling keep hands widely separated for good
leverage. Bend at the hips and knees not the waist. Keep the
shovel close to your body and use your legs to lift the
load. Do not stand in one place, twist and throw the load.
Instead, turn and step to keep your hips and shoulders
moving in the same direction.
Other gardening risk factors
Other risk factors associated with back injuries include
prolonged or awkward postures, including bending and twisting.
Prolonged generally means a position held more than 10 minutes.
Avoid prolonged bending over. It fatigues the lower back
muscles. Instead, bend your knees, squat, or half kneel and
switch legs often. Sit on a bench. Half lunge forward, making
sure your knee does not go past your ankle, using your back leg
for balance. Avoid prolonged kneeling. It‘s also hard on your
knees and hamstrings. After kneeling, stand and stretch your
legs and back.
Use the right tool for the right garden task
Hand trowels are perfect for planting smaller perennials, but
reach for a spade or digging fork when tackling established
Pruning isn’t a major fall chore. It is generally recommended to
stop pruning plants in August to avoid encouraging fresh, new
growth which can be damaged by frost. You can prune plants for
use in holiday décor in December. Many gardeners are guilty of
using what’s at hand to prune- often selecting a tool too small
for the cut they’re making. Hand pruners should be used for
branches up to ¾ inch in diameter. Loppers give gardeners
increased reach and leverage, but are meant for branches no
larger than 1 ¾ in diameter. Hand saws are best for branches
2-3 inches in diameter. Branches over three inches thick are
best cut with power tools. Maintain your tools. Sharp, oiled
tools require a lot less energy and create less strain.
Your equipment should fit your size, build and capabilities.
Avoid heavy tools. Be mindful of the length of the rake or
shovel. Longer handles can ease back strain. Handles that are
too short can cause excessive forward bending and can cause back
strain. The end of the rake handle should reach the height of
your ear when you are standing upright. There are quality tools
sized for shorter gardeners.
Then of course there's
Enlarged handles or cushioned grips can be helpful for those
with arthritic hands. Ergonomically designed tools have become
widely available and can minimize aggravation of arthritic
wrists or shoulders.
Lightweight wheelbarrows are easier to lift and maneuver, but
consider the design of the wheelbarrow. Is it a lightweight
cart, but with wheels in the back versus the front? This type
can be awkward to lift and heavy to move. When the wheel is in
the front of the wheel barrow the weight is over the wheel and
is, therefore, less work for you to lift. This allows you to get
closer to the load and lift with your legs instead of your upper
body and back.
6 cubic foot wheelbarrow too big?
Avoid "overuse" injuries
Excessive weeding or trimming with hand pruners or snips can
lead to tendonitis of the wrist or elbow.
Avoid repetitive motions—actions performed more than 4 hours per
day or 20 times per minute. Switch tasks and/or positions.
Heading out to plant 200 bulbs in one day can be backbreaking
work. Mix in some other activities to give your back a rest.
Excessive raking can lead to discomfort in the upper back, lower
back, shoulders and neck.
few hours of gardening spread out over the week can often
accomplish more work than one long full day of gardening and can
do so without resulting in sore muscles and an aching back.
Gardeners with limited time and small windows of perfect weather
may have to resort to some degree of overuse. For that conundrum
there is always the time tested solution of a hot bath and a hot
toddy to sooth those tired muscles!
High Line Park in Manhattan