Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Warning over 'gung-ho gardening'

Gardening
Too much too soon can be a pain in the back

Gardening after a winter break needs a similar kind of preparation to that of an elite athlete going into a final, experts have warned.

With the spring weather likely to prompt the green-fingered into action, the British College of Osteopathic Medicine said warming up was key.

It recommended stretching before starting, and taking regular breaks.

College head, Dr Ian Drysdale, warned: "People shouldn't simply head out, pick up a spade and start digging."

People forget themselves and go in all gung-ho after the relative hibernation of the winter months
Dr Ian Drydale

The BCOM said its clinics tended to experience a surge in gardening-related injuries, strains and sprains during the spring months.

The most common problems are lower back pain and ligament or joint strains, and it can take up to two weeks to recover.

'Limber up'

Dr Drysdale said: "With elite athletes, people know that they don't just start from nothing and go into a major final.

TIPS TO STAY INJURY-FREE
Do gentle stretches before beginning
Do no more than two hours per day at first
Kneel down when planting
Switch tasks regularly
Take care lifting
Do not swing your mower from side to side
Stop if you feel pain

"When they go into the garden they, perhaps rightly, don't see themselves as elite athletes but the same principle applies - they shouldn't go from doing nothing to a strenuous activity.

"People forget themselves and go in all gung-ho after the relative hibernation of the winter months, forgetting that their bodies need, like the gardens, to be coaxed in gently and limbered up over a period of time."

He added: "Every year clinics prepare themselves for these gardening related injuries, but the majority of them are totally preventable."

Dr Drysdale said tips for easing the body into gardening included kneeling down whenever possible and switching tasks, rather than doing hours of a repetitive movement such as digging.

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