Anne Asher, a movement specialist from The MOVE! Blog, has been kind enough to answer some common questions about how professional and/or passionate gardeners can reduce the strain that comes from repetitive gardening tasks. Check out her new product – great for winter time – called Clear the Blear. Here’s this month’s installment:
In winter, I love to mulch my gardens, because mulch protects plants’ roots from the frost, keeps the soil surface from forming a crust when the rains beat down on it, and keeps the weeds from coming up.
But shoveling loads of mulch, either from off the ground if we have mulch delivered by a dump-truck, or out of a pickup truck, can be repetitive and tiring on the lower back. I find I have a tendency to stoop while scooping.
I’d love some tips on how to shovel light loads like this, where the material does not weigh much and you shovel more quickly than when working soil.
Tips on using a wheelbarrow would also be much appreciated!
There are a couple of tricks to minimizing fatigue of low back muscles. In general if you can strengthen the muscles of your hips, particularly the hamstrings and gluteus max in the back, the gluteus medius on the sides, and the adductors on the inside of your leg, you will be able to get support at the hip joint while you work. Your new found strength will help you avoid using your back. A good Pilates class, or a targeted gym workout should be all you need.
Also, remember to move your whole body rather than twisting at the spine. This takes some conscious effort in the beginning, because most of us don’t think about how we do the chore – we just do it. So you really have to be aware of what your body is doing when you shovel and dump, shovel and dump.
And as for the wheelbarrow, an important point to remember is that the weight you control is supported by an invisible triangle, made by the relationship between the wheel and the two handles. The idea of a triangle should help keep things more stable as you maneuver the thing. At the apex of the triangle is the small and moveable wheel – that’s the only place where movement of the wheelbarrow can happen.
Set yourself up for success in the beginning by centering your body in between the two handles. Face your hips directly in front of the container, and line them up so they are level with the lip. When using the wheelbarrow, try to use whole body leverage rather than your hands and wrists, or even shoulders. Lean your body weight in when dumping the mulch out, for example. Just as when you shovel, you should try to move your body as a whole when maneuvering the wheelbarrow. Wherever possible, avoid muscling through, using only one or two body parts.
***Do you have any areas that hurt you when you garden? Let us know in the comments, and Anne can answer your questions in future articles.***
Anne Asher has been in the bodywork and holistic health field for over 20 years. She has worked in chiropractors’ offices, physical therapy clinics and in her own business. She taught Pilates based exercise to people with chronic musculoskeletal pain for 5 years in Humboldt County. Anne is now the Back and Neck Pain guide on About.com. About.com is a New York Times web property.
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