As more people turn toward growing their own organic fruits and vegetables at home or in community gardens, they learn gardening gives them a green thumb … along with gardening aches and pains. Gardening, like any physical exercise, can lead to minor muscle discomfort. However, more serious conditions, such as strain and sprain injuries to the low back are common, as well as occasional neck, shoulder and arms injuries. Before picking up the trowel and rake, consider these tips for beneficial and safe gardening exercise.
Avoid Gardening Aches by Warming Up
Maybe it’s not a triathlon, but gardening offers great low-impact exercise. However, it can cause issues stemming from repetitive motions, over-ambitious stretching or lifting, and holding unfamiliar body positions. This is especially true for all the forward bending involved in gardening. Gardeners should stretch and warm up their muscles prior to their day’s chores. Warm up the wrists with some rolling movements. Lace your fingers then extend arms with palms facing outward to stretch the lower arms. Stretch hamstrings by elevating one leg onto a step, bending at the waist and holding the back of the thighs until you feel a slight resistance. Repeat with the other leg. Do not stretch past your comfort level or to the point of pain! Give yourself a hug and hold it to stretch shoulders out. Finally, take a brief walk to warm up muscles and finish with few squats to prepare you for all that ground work.
Make Smarter Power Equipment Choices
Each year, too many weekend gardeners find themselves in emergency rooms after accidents with power equipment such as mowers, tillers or trimmers. You can avoid most of these injuries by reading all instructions and warnings carefully. However, there are a few extra musculoskeletal precautions you can take. Whenever possible opt for electric equipment over heavier gas powered items. Always use provided straps, whether you think they’re needed or not. Cross-body straps prove particularly helpful in keeping your body in balance. If the tool is held on one side, switch primary hands frequently to allow your muscles to rest and recover.
Yes, You Can Pull Weeds Without Pain!
Weeding tends to be the garden activity most reliable in harvesting those gardening aches. Make this task easier on the body soaking the area the evening before to soften the soil and make pulling plant matter easier. When you start weeding, remember to lower your body by bending at the knees, not at the waist when picking up items or pulling that stray dandelion. Kneel to do longer spans of work, instead of repeatedly bending down for items. Many nurseries and discount stores carry foam or gel knee mats to reduce body discomfort and stress while kneeling. And although it may be tempting to power through that big patch of weeds, do your body a favor and take frequent breaks. Stand up and walk around to rest your body from repetitive motions.
Finally, whether early in the season or late into harvest, you might encounter prolonged pain from your gardening. If you’re still feeling your activity hours later, try applying a cold pack to sore areas within the first 72 hours. Apply mild heat for soreness or stiffness after 72 hours, but avoid heat entirely if you are still in pain. If you notice pain two to three days following your activity, consider booking an appointment at Financial District Chiropractic. Not only can we relieve most pain and always without the use of drugs, we can also identify any severe damage and get you on the road to recovery and back in the garden.
This year, enjoy the nutritional and exercise benefits of gardening by working wisely and protecting your musculoskeletal system. And, always feel free to bring any extra homegrown tomatoes at your next visit.