Avoid over-stretching; this increases the forces being put through largely unprotected back muscles.
Try to use a wheelbarrow with cushioned grips – it will be more slip-resistant and provide a more comfortable grip.
Don’t overladen the barrow – several lighter trips will be safer than carrying one heavy load.
Make sure when you pick up and lower the barrow you do so correctly, using your stronger thigh muscles to reduce pressure through back and shoulders.
Here’s a reminder of some good lifting techniques to use whenever picking up a heavier load:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, feet facing object
Keeping shoulders back, head up and back straight
Make sure feet remain flat on the ground
Bend from the knees (not back) – knees will turn out
Place a firm grip onto the object
Stand up – driving from the thighs and core stomach muscles
Pay as much attention to setting the object down as when picking it up – a reverse of the above
Also – look at the tools you are using
Lightweight, long handled gardening tools will help avoid stretching and over bending; longer handles also generate more leverage with less force.
Having tools with a “cushioned grip” will make sustained activities more comfortable, lead to less compensation on other joints, provide slip resistance and reduce grip force.
Use a grip extender to make gripping tools easier and protect your wrist joints.
Use a wheeled garden trolley to help you move items as needed.
Use a wheeled plant pot “dolly” to move heavy tubs and pots.
Use a retractable hanging basket hook to make maintenance of these easier.
Use a wheeled garden stool and/or garden kneeler to make sustained actions more comfortable.
Think about creating raised beds and planters to reduce excessive bending, enabling you to work at a more comfortable height.
Remember – over-time, regular exposure to bad postures can increase your risk of arthritis or exacerbate already weakened muscles and joints leading to increased pain, stiffness and fatigue.
If you experience prolonged symptoms of any of the following whilst carrying out an activity you need to stop and rest – they may be symptoms of a bigger problem:
Tingling or numbness
Swelling of a joint
Decreased ability to move
Decreased grip strength
Changes in skin colour in hands and fingers
Pain from movement, pressure, vibration or exposure to cold
Next time you go out into your garden, review your gardening habits and see if you can apply the above tips into your activities. Regular activity like gardening is a great form of exercise, regardless of age or health conditions, when done right.