Figures just released by the Royal College of Surgeons show that there were over 25,700 hospital admissions in England for gardening and DIY related injuries over the past three years, with spikes occurring at the start of the summer season.
It’s easy to get carried away when the long days and warmer weather come along as there can be so much to do and new projects to tackle.
In terms of trying to avoid back related strains and injuries, the British Chiropractic Association has some good advice.
Warm up – Gardening and DIY is like any other exercise; you need to warm up first. Don’t go straight into heavy work; start off with lighter jobs as this will lessen the chance of muscle strain.
Clever pruning in the garden – Get as close as possible to the things you are pruning and avoid overstretching to reach the area you are dealing with. Invest in some long handled secateurs to reach plants and bushes that are beyond normal reach.
Using a ladder
– When using a ladder or steps, make sure you are always facing it, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees pointing in the same direction.
– Rather than leaning or reaching, move the ladder or step regularly to keep up with where you are.
– Any kind of ladder must be firmly and safely planted in position and, if possible, have someone else there to keep an eye on things.
Reach for the sky
– When painting a ceiling, think about how to get the largest amount of paint on the ceiling in the shortest space of time.
– Use a large paint pad or a roller with an extended handle (hold it at chest height.)
– Keep your head in as neutral position as possible and keep facing forward; don’t over stretch your neck.
– If you can lie down to do the job using a platform, do!
– If you are planning a trip to the DIY store or garden centre to purchase heavy items, such as sand or compost, buy smaller bags rather than one big bag as they will be easier and safer to carry. If you do buy heavy items, use a trolley and, if on your own, ask an assistant at the store to help you.
– 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. Don’t lift with your arms straight out, keep the elbows bent and to your side to minimise the stress on your back.
Take a break
– Vary your activity by spending no more than 20-30 minutes on any one thing and make sure you take regular breaks.