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The Perils of Bulb Planting – How to Avoid Injury

By DMG Physical & Occupational Therapy

Do you love the look of spring tulips, daffodils or crocus? They are great because you plant them once and they come up year after year. To enjoy these beautiful spring flowers you have to plant bulbs – in the fall.

While you love the look of these flowers, you may not enjoy the process of planting them or the effect it has on your body after a long day of gardening. Oftentimes aches and pains come from Osteoarthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome [link to CTS article] or Repetitive Strain Injury and can be avoided by proper ergonomics, or body mechanics.

 Follow the tips below to enjoy your flower beds and avoid injury!

  • Choose the Right Day
    • While working on the weekends can allow you more time, the ground might not be in the best condition. Try to choose a day right after it rains so that the earth is moist.
  • Location, Location, Location
    • When you decide where you want to plant your bulbs, don’t over reach. Try to stay as close to your work as possible. When possible, kneel on a knee pad or use a garden stool. Also, avoid keeping a tight grasp for a long period of time on the tools you are using.
  • The Right Tools for the Right Job
    • Today, many stores sell ergonomic garden tools, this means that the handle has been specially designed to minimize stress and maximize power. Many tools today have been designed to fit the natural way the hand and wrist works to make them more effective and prevent injury by avoiding using the tools in a pinching manner – try to use a full grip to hold tools.
  • Protect Your Hands
    • Don’t forget to pick up a pair of gardening gloves! Mixing soil by hand is good for hand strength and finger flexibility, and for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Gloves can also help avoid the blisters and dryness associated with plant soil, as well as protect your hands from small organisms in the soil that can enter your body through cuts in the hands and lead to infection.
  • Plan Ahead
    • Don’t try to do too much too soon, plan accordingly for your projects. Planting a few clusters of bulbs may only take an hour – but redoing all your flower beds will take a lot more time! If you are working on a bigger project, don’t forget to get up and stretch to avoid cramping. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. See how you feel. Don’t forget to take rest breaks.

If you are already feeling the aches and pains of gardening, there are ways to alleviate the pain: apply a cold pack during the first 48 hours of symptoms or a heat pack after 48 hours; but if pain persists, talk to your physician and see if Occupational Therapy is right for you. To make an appointment with Physical/Occupational Therapy please call 630-967-2000.

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