My mom loves to garden. But recently she pulled her back and was in immense pain for over a week before she could get back to her normal activities. This raised a question in me: how can I help my mom to know how to garden SAFELY? My research led to the following information.

Just what is ergonomics? By definition it is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. That is “how to do a task in the safest and most efficient way.” The study of ergonomics finds how to fit a task with how a person naturally moves their body.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 400,000 people are hurt in their gardens each year from lawn or garden tools, and thousands more are hurt from the act of gardening: bending, stooping, reaching and grasping. "Gardening can be an ergonomic nightmare," explains Josh Kerst, vice president and ergonomics engineer at Humantech. Maintaining awkward movements and body positions – such as bending and twisting – for long periods of time eventually can wear out the body and cause discomfort. If you have done any amount of gardening, you have felt it: sore wrists, low back pain, neck pain or just all-around body aches.

Here are some tips for gardening safely gleaned from an article The Ergonomic Gardener located at the website,

  1. “Use gloves to avoid unnecessary cuts and scrapes on your hands and fingers.” Well, duh! I don’t know about you, but when I get started gardening, I am all hands in. Dirty nails and all result. But if you take the time to garden with gloves, it will pay off in the long run, even if it’s a bit more cumbersome.

  2. “Try to minimize your continuous extended reaches to fewer than 10 to 15 seconds. Take short breaks between segments to prevent injury and overexertion.” “Minimize the time spent working with your head and neck in an extended position (looking up). Take periodic breaks to avoid fatigue.”

  3. The idea of periodic breaks is a good idea at any given turn while out gardening. This is also true especially if it is hot weather. [In reference to Nos.: 2 & 3 above]

  4. “Elbows should be kept below heart level as much as possible. The use of long-handed tools or taking periodic breaks to minimize such movements will keep your body in a comfortable position.” This will effectively reduce stress on your body.

  5. “Avoid fine-motor repetitive movements such as pinching and pulling, these movements are often used with the finger and the thumb.” Rather use simple tools to instead [Please refer to our blog “Arthritic Tools for Daily Living.”]

  6. “Work with wrists in a neutral position – straight, in line with forearm, and with thumbs up. Remember to hold objects with a light grasp or grip.”

The bottom line on ergonomic gardening is this: as in anything, maintaining a good posture is important. Keep your back straight. A good posture will help to reduce muscle pain and fatigue.

Another good rule of thumb is to remember to bend your knees, not your back, while lifting. Also, kneel with only one knee, not both. Kneeling with both knees can cause your back to round. Kneeling with one knee keeps your back straight.

And remember: You are never too young to use these tips. It could prevent future problems with your health if you practice these tips starting now.


Call Missy Donaghy with Interiors for Seniors for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.


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