Science-approved digging technique prevents injury


This scientifically-backed digging advice will eliminate the days spent hobbling around after a weekend gardening sesh. You’re welcome, green thumbs.

In news sure to have you speeding off to Bunnings to buy those camellias you’ve been putting off planting, it would seem that science has found a way to prevent the post-shovel shuffle.

New research from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Coventry University reveals that an improper digging technique can result in chronic injury, as it can as much as double the load on the joints in your body.

Gardeners should maintain bent knees at all times while digging in the garden Picture: Getty

The study, published in the journal HortTechnology, used 3D optical tracking equipment – think skin-tight suits with ping pong balls attached – to calculate the internal load caused by digging a hole for each participant involved in the study.

Researchers found that the internal load in the lower lumbar spine region of the back – where many gardeners experience aches and pains – can be increased by half with bad posture.

The shoulders were more delicate still, with participants feeling more than double the load when gardening with even so much as a slouch.

This kind of strain at the joint can lead to an increased risk of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in Australia.

READ: Beyond greening your property

5 steps to digging without injury

1. Maintain good posture throughout.
2. Use a regular, repetitive technique.
3. Dig with a minimal back bend and bent knees.
4. Avoid forward bending, over-stretching limbs and erratic motions.
5. Stop if you’re feeling unreasonable strain.

Good posture is the key to preventing injury. Picture: Getty

Dr Paul Alexander, head of horticultural and environmental science at the RHS, said of the findings: “Digging is one of the more common gardening practices – whether it be for planting trees, shovelling soil or turning compost – yet we tend to rely upon common sense which can lead to gardeners complaining of aches and pains.

“Our findings will help us ensure that both amateurs and professionals stay digging for longer; avoiding injury, and improving efficiency.”


This article was originally published as Science-approved digging technique prevents injury by and is written by Katie Skelly.

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