Gardening can be a wonderful physical activity to promote flexibility, strength, better balance, stress reduction, and improved bone density. It’s a great way to burn off calories while obtaining the ultimate reward—beautiful flowers, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. With Spring fast approaching, it’s time to get your yard and garden ready… but is your body ready? If you’re like most of us who have spent the winter hibernating on our couches, you may be at risk for injury as you head outside and engage in physical activity.
If you engage in any physical activity without preparation for all the reaching, bending, twisting, and pulling that comes with yardwork and gardening, you may potentially find yourself dealing with:
- Muscle pain
- Back, shoulder, and knee strains
- Back disc bulge or herniation
- Shoulder, elbow, and knee tendonitis/bursitis
Here are 8 quick tips to avoid some common aches and pains you might encounter while gardening:
- Develop a plan for yard and garden work and stick to it;
- Start slow and progress the level of activity – one to two hours at a time;
- Work smarter, not harder. Use tools to reduce risk and strain on body;
- Warm up by walking and stretching before engaging in strenuous activity – especially your back, shoulders, and leg muscles;
- If you have an area that has inflammation, appears red, warm, swollen, and/or is painful, ice/cold pack for 10-15 minutes is used as part of the initial treatment for sprains and strains, and other minor injuries;
- Ice should not be applied to bare skin. Always use a protective covering such as a towel or pillow case between the ice or heat and the skin.
- Take it easy, and rest until the pain subsides
- Any persistent pain lasting more than 48-72 hours should be addressed by a physical therapist or other medical professional.
Try these modifications to get the most out of your time in the garden while minimizing your risk for injury:
- Change positions often. For example, alternate container planting at waist level with ground planting to alleviate pressure on muscles and joints and reduce overuse.
- Take breaks to allow your joints to rest – even if you feel great!
- Drink water, walk and stretch to reduce stress on your joints. Use this time to plan your next task.
- Use ergonomic tools – kneeling pads, kneeling bench, padded handle tools, and -slip gloves to reduce the force on your wrists, knees, and elbows.
- Finish right – stand, walk, and stretch again.
Lastly, stop and respect pain, at the first sign of it. It’s easier and more effective to treat new and recent injuries rather than those lingering for a few months. A Physical Therapist has many techniques to help teach you ways to modify activities with the goal of allowing you to continue enjoying them all summer while reducing your risk of pain/injury. Call one of our locations and our staff can schedule you and determine if a doctor’s prescription is required.