The Ergonomic Gardener: A Guide to Healthy Green Thumbs July 16 2018
Gardening is the #1 past time in the United States, with 84 million households gardening on the weekends. Gardening requires bending over and kneeling regularly as well as the use of particular tools. This creates many opportunities for ergonomic improvements to ease strain on the body and hands.
If you experience a reduced ability to move or grip your tools, you may have early signs of problems. Other symptoms include tingling, swelling of joints, muscle fatigue, numbness, change in skin color on hands or fingertips, as well as pain from movement, pressure, vibrations, or exposure to cold. Each of these signs and symptoms indicate you may have ergonomic related issues. Especially if you consider yourself an avid gardener, you’ll want to incorporate these tips and ideas into your routine:
The first thing to look at when trying to be a better ergonomic gardener is the tools you regularly use. Gardening tools with handles that are too big or have too wide an opening can strain your wrists over time. Handles that are too smooth or have sharp edges can also be difficult to grip and cause you problems. Consider a thicker and longer handle that provides you with more surface area for grasping as well as better leverage with less force. Cushioned grips like these cylindrical tubing for tool handles can give you slip resistance and a reduced grip force. Gloves with finger grips can also help you when it comes to slip resistance.
Use tools that keep your wrists in a natural handshake like position and warm up your wrists with minor exercises like gently stretching the wrist back and down. Hold tools with a light and loose grasp as gripping too hard can cause strain.
The way you position your body while gardening can have great impact on your back, knees, neck, and shoulders. Check your body alignment while you’re working and notice if you’re hunched over too severely. Opting for raised garden beds or table top gardens can help when it comes to bending over for extended periods of time. Or, consider using a gardener’s kneeling strip to pad the ground nearby your ground level garden beds. You should change position often and take frequent breaks for water.
Lighten the Load
Always opt for using wheelbarrows, dollies, and other wheeled load bearers instead of lifting heavy items yourself. This way you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your back and shoulders. Also consider whether you can attach any type of tool extenders on your gardening tools. These can help increase leverage as well as reduce the amount of time spent bent over.
Remember, ergonomics isn’t just applicable inside the office! Ergonomics is everywhere. Gardening is great fun but also hard work. Make sure your tools are well maintained and ergonomically friendly for those long Saturdays in the sun. And of course, always watch your posture!