It’s that time of year again ... time to exchange your winter gloves and snow shovel with gardening gloves and watering cans! While the warmer weather brings on a sense of energy and desire to plant, we need to make sure to use proper body mechanics to avoid muscle aches and potential serious injuries. Below are a few tips to make gardening experience more enjoyable and less painful:
Lifting heavy objects such as bags of soil, planters and mulch improperly can lead to low back strains and/or sciatic pain. Alternative options include moving half of the soil/mulch to a separate pot before lifting the bag or planting in to smaller pots that are easier to maneuver. Another suggestion would be using a garden cart or wheelbarrow to assist with moving heavy gardening materials.
Prepping the soil can be a difficult and tedious task requiring prolonged forward bending and frequent changes in position. We suggest trying to prep the planting bed by using long-handled gardening tools, and, once the soil is ready, plant from a kneeling position using either a kneeling stool or a cushion. Those with known chronic low back pain may want to consider planting in to pots, flower boxes or raised flower beds to avoid further injury.
Most people dislike weeding their gardens and flower beds. An alternative to reduce the need to weed include using plants as ground cover or using mulch in your flower beds to minimize weed growth. If using a weed spray, look for bottles that have a sprayer hose to allow you to stand upright while treating your problem areas.
MOWING THE LAWN:
The action of pulling a cord to start your mower is the most common cause of low back injuries. If you must use a pull start mower, remember to bend at your knees and maintain the natural curve of your spine while reaching for the cord. Make sure you tighten your abdominal muscles just before pulling the cord in order to support your spine. If using a push mower, remember to maintain proper upright posture and take breaks as needed.
Stretching before you start gardening can help you from experiencing pain later. Here are some stretching techniques to help get you started:
1.) Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms overhead. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
2.) Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. This is a stretch for the upper back and shoulder. Stretch both the right and left arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
3.) Raise one arm overhead. Bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on the bent elbow and gently push the elbow back further. This is a stretch for the triceps. Stretch both the right and left arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
4.) Extend an arm in front of you, making sure the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend in the wrist downward. Then turn the palm up, and stretch the wrist backwards. This stretches the forearm and wrist muscles. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
There are many physical health benefits of gardening. In fact, it’s even classified as a physical activity! In fact, the simple activities of gardening, when done correctly, can strengthen bones and joints, keep your muscles strong, and help increase stamina and flexibility. Just make sure you listen to your body. Take frequent breaks and change positions when you start to experience aching, cramping or fatigue. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. And, if you do happen to experience low back pain or any other injury, please do not delay in contacting The Smith Clinic. We can help alleviate your symptoms as well as educate you on proper body mechanics!