In fact, eighty per cent of Ontario chiropractors report that gardening is the most common source of back and neck pain during the warm weather season. With the busiest gardening weekends just around the corner, it’s time to discuss how to plant and rake without the ache!
All avid gardeners understand that you must prepare the grounds before you plant; the same is true for gardening itself. To help avoid injury, you must prepare your body before you start any gardening activities. This starts with a proper warm up.
A good warm up may include a brisk 10 minute walk around the block, as this will increase circulation to the muscles and joints used during gardening. Once warmed up, it is essential to stretch your muscles. These include:
While sitting or standing with good posture, do the following:
• Tilt head and chin forward, bringing chin toward collarbone. Hold for 20 seconds
• Keeping face forward, tip ear toward shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
• Holding arm straight out in front, point hand downward toward the ground. With other hand, gently pull fingers toward you until you feel a stretch in the wrist and forearms. Repeat on other side.
• Hold hands in front of chest, palms together, fingers pointing upward (in a prayer position). Bend wrists until you feel a stretch.
• Grasp elbow with opposite hand. Pull elbow and arm across chest until you feel a gentle stretch at back of arm and shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on other side.
• Clasp hands behind head. Press elbows back until you feel a gentle stretch at front of shoulders.
Lower back and legs
• While standing, place hands along the small of the back. Bend backwards until you feel a stretch.
• Clasp hands together overhead. Lean to one side, keeping back straight, until you feel a stretch in your side. Repeat on other side.
• Using a wall for support, grasp the top of the ankle behind you. Push leg back to stretch front of thigh, keeping thigh in line with body, and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Remember to stretch at the end of your gardening activities as well, to help reduce post activity soreness.
Other Important Tips to follow:
Bend Your Knees
Before lifting, position yourself close to the object. Keep your back straight and bend your knees using your leg and arm muscles to smoothly and slowly lift the load. Keep the load close to your body and pivot. Don’t twist to turn; this will only create increased tension on your spine.
Drink lots of water to keep your body well hydrated. The discs of your spine require water to keep them cushiony and functioning properly.
Take a Break
Rest when you’re tired and take time out for stretching to loosen tense muscles. Pacing yourself will allow muscles to recover before becoming overworked. On especially hot days make sure to find a shaded area to take a break.
Use the Right Tools
Try to select ergonomic tools, such as long handled tools, to help reduce the stress and strain with gardening activities. For activities close to the ground, use a low stool or a pad for your knees.
Don’t stay in the same position for a long time. Limit a task to 15-20 minutes at a time. This will help to prevent muscle fatigue and stiffness.
If you notice any pain that lasts longer than 24 hours make sure to consult your health care practitioner for a full assessment.