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Reducing injuries while pulling weeds

A daily dose of exercise has been proven to be a good stress reliever and bring benefits to your physical and emotional well-being, not to mention your home’s pristine appearance.

Another form of good exercise is pulling weeds. However, if not done properly this type of “work-out” can definitely put you into misery. Injuries associated with pulling weeds include aching muscles, sore shoulders, tension in the neck, pulled muscles, back pain, twisting, carpal tunnel, wrist and finger pain, long periods of same hand movements, using poorly designed tools, and repeated wrist/hand motions.

Listed below are benefits associated with backyard work, as well as some tips on how to reduce injuries:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the plants and weeds in your garden. Go to your local library and review some books, or do some research online. You want to make sure you are getting rid of pesky weeds not flowers or other beautiful plants, or small growing trees. Or, on your next shopping trip, ask an associate at your local garden center. 
  2. Loosen joints and muscles by doing warm-up exercises for approximately 10 minutes before beginning your yard chores. These could include walking, stretching, moving arms straight out, back, to the sides, doing circles, etc. You can also do the same with your hands. 
  3. Purchase good quality gardening gloves, there are brands which have extra padding for good grip, strength, force and to maintain a good temperature, as well as to protect your hands from cuts and insect bites.
  4. Wear some type of eye protection, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, good, sturdy shoes, and a mask if you feel is necessary. This will protect you against flying debris, such as soil, weeds and small rocks.
  5. Purchase a good-quality kneeling pad, or build your own by using foam or cardboard and some old towels and blankets. Make sure you have a stable platform which will enable you to move as well as cushion your knees while pulling weeds.
  6. Try using your entire palms to pull weeds. Try to avoid using your fingers, especially if you have arthritis, or deep cuts. In order to minimize further hand / wrist injuries, stay away from squeezing, twisting or pinching with your hands. This also includes switching hands. If you work with only one hand you are going to overstress your joints and cause injury to your tendons and muscles.
  7. Purchase good-quality and well-designed gardening tools; choose tools that use a twisting motion rather than a pulling motion, since these use your shoulder muscles instead of your lower back muscles. Or, purchase a tool with a long handle which will enable you to weed while standing or sitting instead of kneeling. Always clean your garden tools to keep them in proper working order.
  8. Take occasional breaks to avoid fatigue, muscle tension and stiffness, and stay hydrated throughout your routine. Remember, you do not have to work on the entire yard, instead work in sections. Don’t work in haste! If you start feeling tension, stretch or completely stop until you feel up to it again. 
  9. Finally, to avoid injuring your back or straining muscles, sit using a bench or step stool instead of kneeling. Remember, when lifting heavy objects, such as boxes or tools, separate your feet shoulder-width apart and give yourself a solid base of support. Bend at the knees, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up.

These small tips should help you avoid back, spine, knee, arm, shoulder and hand injuries caused by improper lifting and repetitive bending and constant kneeling.

The above suggestions are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon as instructions for rendering medical help or advice. They are based solely on illustrative purposes. Morici, Longo & Associates does not make any warranty, expressed or implied for any products or suggestions mentioned, or any techniques or practices described.