Spring is nearly here and it's time to be heading out into the garden. While gardening can be a source of pleasure and relaxation, it can also lead to injuries and pain. The following tips can help you avoid strain and backaches when you are gardening this year.
Tip #1: Do Your Stretches
Gardening may not seem like exercise, but the repetitive bending, pulling, and digging motions can play havoc on your muscles. Take a few minutes to stretch before heading outside. Some gentle stretches for your back, shoulders, and legs are best. Begin by stretching your arms overhead, and then slowly bend over and reach toward your toes. Next, swing your arms gently to the front until they touch, and then backward as far as they will go. Finally, step forward with one leg bending at the knee, extending the other leg behind. Repeat each of these stretches a few times until you are limbered up.
Tip #2: Get a Kneeling Pad
The quickest way to create a hurting back is to bend over constantly. Invest in a garden kneeler and use it. If carting around a kneeling pad seems like too much work, knee guards are also available for gardeners – simply strap them on when you head outside. When kneeling and working, keep your back as straight as possible. Avoid rounding your shoulders or hunching over.
Tip #3: Use Your Legs
Don't try to lift or pull with your back. Instead, keep your back straight and bend at the knee to reach whatever you need to lift or pull up. Then, lift carefully, keeping the back straight. When possible, use a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move heavy things instead of trying to lug them across the yard with a bucket or in your hands.
Tip #4: Stop Occasionally
If you are feeling tired, don't try to push through. Take a 10 minute break and drink some cool water so you stay hydrated. It's also a good idea to vary your tasks occasionally so that you don't overwork a single muscle group. If you've been pulling weeds for the last hour, take a 10 minute break and then move on to raking for a short period of time. Sometimes you may need to stop completely. If you feel any pain, especially in your back or neck, call it quits for the day so you don't develop a major injury. If the pain doesn't fade after a warm shower and a good night's rest, call your chiropractor or University Physical Medicine for an assessment.