Occupational therapist offers tips for gardening safety

May 24, 2019

The best time of the year is right around the corner as the weather continues to warm up in Sussex County.

While there are many activities that come with the warm weather, it’s important to consider that jumping into too much, too quickly, could come with pain and consequences. For example, sowing that backyard garden could lead to more time healing indoors on the couch rather than enjoying the splendid sunshine.

Beebe’s therapists encourage everyone to plan ahead to avoid injury, and here are some tips to avoid injuries when gardening.

1. Stretch before and after you start to work on your garden to warm up your muscles.

2. Invest in ergonomic gardening tools, including a padded kneeling pad, built-up handles for garden tools, and a raised garden bed. Use a wheeled wagon to transport items rather than carrying them.

3. Use the big muscles in your body to do the lifting. Carry items close to your body and when lifting from the ground, bend your knees and push through your legs to lift.

4. Instead of lifting a large bag of mulch, put the mulch into smaller loads so it's easier on your body.

5. Find a chair/stool suitable to your height that will allow you to sit and work on your garden without hurting your back.

6. Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands.

7. Protect your skin by wearing a wide-brim hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

8. Start with a small garden that’s easy to manage and located near a hose so you don’t have to go far to access water.

9. Take breaks frequently. It’s easy to lose track of time, so set a timer if needed to allow your body a chance to rest.

10. Split up the work into sections instead of trying to complete a large project in one day. Allot more time than anticipated to complete your project, so you don’t feel rushed.

11. Try to avoid doing a repetitive motion for too long. Work your way around the garden rather than focusing on just one task.

12. Drink a lot of water to keep hydrated.

13. Try to avoid working in the garden during the heat of the day. Work in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.

14. Keep a phone near you in case of emergency.

15. Relax at the end of the day. Enjoy a shower or bath, and remember to stretch again.

Katie Merk, MS, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist with Beebe since 2016. She currently
works in the outpatient Rehoboth location and in the inpatient setting at the main campus in Lewes.


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