It’s that time of year again, Spring is in the air, and the gardener in us is rolling up his/her sleeve and eyeing the garden to get it ready for the summer after a winter of neglect.
All that digging and pulling will put a lot of stress on your bodies and after a hard gardening session, you will certainly feel the aches and pains the next day.
Below are a few tips to try and minimize the risk of gardening injuries.
1. Start with a warm-up.
Do a simple warm-up. Start by taking a five-minute walk or easy raking to get your muscles prepped for the job ahead. Some easy back and leg stretches will also help to avoid muscle strains. Pratik Visaria, our clinic director and osteopath, says we should approach our gardening like a sport. We wouldn’t go for a long run or swim without a proper warm up.
2. Use joint-friendly tools.
Long-handled tools that allow you to stand, not stoop, and easy-to-grip hand tools are gardeners’ friends. Using a kneeling pad or even a stool you can sit on while weeding would help.
3. Practice correct posture.
Bending with your knees and not your back is still the most common recommendation people ignore. Whenever you lift something of any size, you must always keep your back as straight as possible. This will allow the muscles around the core to properly contract and protect the necessary discs and joints of your back. Let the larger muscles and stronger joints do the work when possible.
Contract your abdominal muscles before you lift the object. This is exactly as it sounds. Before you lift that wheelbarrow or bag of gravel, tighten up your abdominal muscles first and then lift. This helps to protect your back, and minimize low back injuries.
Keep your nose between your toes. This is essentially the same thing as saying, “don’t twist.”
Keep the weight as close to you as possible. If you hold anything at arm’s length in front of you, it will place up to 10 times the stress on your back muscles. Therefore, when carrying the weight or lifting it, keep it very close to your stomach so as not to put undue stress on your lumbar spine muscles.
4. Ask for help.
The first garden tip is to know your limits. Determine which tasks you can easily do and which tasks you may need assistance with. Consider hiring someone to do the heavy work.
5. Take frequent breaks.
It’s easy to loose track of time when you are doing something you love but it’s important to take frequent breaks. Also, avoid doing the same kind of job, such as pruning, for a long period. Switch to something else for a while. When you’re gardening, arthritis pain can build if you don’t rest your joints properly. Stop and rest. Having these breaks allows your body to recover and get more done before fatigue begins.
6. Pace yourself
Even if you are fit and healthy, gardening is a tough work out. You use different muscle groups and move the body in different ways. Don’t try to get the garden all done in a weekend!
7. Vary your tasks
Plan to do different things in the garden which require different positions – for example some weeding then swap with some pruning higher up. Varying your tasks and your posture means that you don’t over-work one area of your body.
8. Don’t flop on the sofa
After a gardening session the worst thing you can do is spend the evening recovering on the sofa, according to our osteopath Pratik.
“Your muscles will stiffen up and any soreness will be far worse,” he explains.“Keep moving, perhaps go for a gentle walk, all the time remembering to keep your back straight.” He also recommends a warm bath with some salts which can be soothing.
If back pain persists, call us on Dunstable – 01582 608400 or Leighton Buzzard on 01525 372 447 to book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or osteopaths. Don’t suffer in silence, here at Woodside Clinic we can get you back to your gardening faster.