I’ve been heavy into gardening this past month and a half and while gardening, I’m thinking of you, paying attention to what mechanics I am using to dig holes, pull weeds, mulch, plant shrubs to save my back and your’s.
But it’s not only about gardening, but what you do after you are done that is just as important.
This blog will give you some tips to prevent injury to your spine and shoulders. It is a continuation of my last gardening blog sent May 11th.
How Gardening Affects Your Body
Gardening involves many repetitive activities such as bending, kneeling, digging, reaching, and carrying plants and soil. Bending can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain, and kneeling for long periods can cause knee pain if you aren’t aware of your alignment.
While gardening is good exercise, overuse of muscles and stress on joints can lead to pain, stiffness, and long-term injury if gardeners do not keep in good physical shape and make sure to garden in a healthy way.
Tips During Gardening
Take Breaks When You Garden
If you have been in one position for 5-10 minutes, be sure to change the position you are in or move onto something else. For instance, if you have been pruning a shrub with a lopper, which uses the same motion in the upper body, give it a break and move onto spreading some mulch.
However big or small a hole you are digging, you want to stay close to that area. If using a trowel, you can squat with feet separated or one in front of the other. Your buttocks should be down towards the ground in squatting. You can also go onto hands and knees, but again stay close to the hole you are digging so you are not reaching beyond arm length. You can also just sit on the ground or kneel in 1/2 kneeling or tall kneeling. You may want to use knee pads.
When using a shovel, place your body against the shovel to stomp your foot on it. When lifting the shovel, remember it is heavy with an end that is even heavier and now may have added weight of soil on it, bend your knees, hold the shovel handle 1/2 down the shovel, and use your body weight to lean away from the end to pick up the soil. When turning to drop the soil, turn your entire body to face where you are placing it.
Mulch bags should be pulled with your body weight leaning away from the bag so you are not trying to muscle it. Think about your standing alignment and keep the sternum lifted and use the muscles between the shoulder blades and your buttocks and abdominals.
Tips for After Gardening
Most gardening is done in a flexed position, unless you are pruning tall shrubs and trees. Therefore you want to end with extension type activities to counteract all that flexion.
Put your hands in the small of your back for support and bend backwards. This is also good to do while gardening when you take breaks or before moving onto the next thing.
Lie on your stomach when you get inside and do 10 pressups where your pelvis stays on the floor and you use arms (and lower trapezius) to press the upper body off the floor arching like in the back bend.
If you have a foam roller, lie on it vertically to release muscle tension and open up the vertebrae. You can then lie on it horizontally and arch over the roller to give more extension, as seen at the top of the page.
Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and provides support for your joints. Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture while you are gardening and reduce stress on your back, hips, and legs.
Getting Help With Physical Therapy
For pain that does not respond to at-home therapies, physical therapy restores range of motion and helps muscles heal. Physical therapy exercises can target strains, tension, and repetitive motion injuries that result from gardening. Physical Therapy also teaches the correct mechanics to safely dig a hole, weed, or prune.
With the right combination of the best physical therapy from Wellness Rehabilitation Inc., exercise, and instruction in safe mechanics, you can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle, including gardening and other outdoor hobbies.
If you have gardening pain that does not go away or is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, click here to schedule a FREE 20 minute call to discuss how we can help you.
To Your Health,