As a physical therapist I am often asked questions about how certain activities can affect your body – whether it is day-to-day things like sitting at a desk, lifting heavy objects, to repetitive movements. One thing that I have been asked about a on more than one occasion is gardening – and I think there are a lot of people who would benefit from learning how to avoid pain from gardening.
I would say that the most common gardening activities include; digging, planting, weeding, mulching, and raking – all of which can cause stress and strain on your muscles and joints. The threat of the aforementioned is especially high for senior citizens, and people who are normally sedentary. The areas of your body that are particularly vulnerable to injury are, your shoulders, neck, back, and knees.
Tips to help minimize or prevent injuries:
- Take 10 minutes to go for a brisk walk before you start gardening – it will stretch your spine and limbs.
- Make sure that you are changing positions frequently in order to avoid stiffness or cramping.
- Make sure to pay attention to how your body feels. It seems simple – but if a part of your body starts to ache just stop and take a break, and switch to a different gardening activity.
- Use a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move heavy planting materials or tools – and make sure you are keeping your back straight (while using those tools).
- Use kneepads or a gardening pad when kneeling.
- If kneeling or leaning down to the ground causes significant pain in your back or knees, consider investing in elevated planters to do your gardening.
- Pay attention to what you are doing and use good body mechanics when picking something up or pull on something. The biggest mistake is lifting with your legs – so make sure that you bend your knees, tighten your abdominals, and keep your back straight as you lift or pull things. Also it’s best to try your best not to twist your spine or knees when moving things to the side; do your best to move your feet or pivot on your toes so that you are turning your entire body together.
- Avoid bending your wrist upwards – try to keep your wrist straight and use your shoulder muscles instead when pulling and lifting.
- End your gardening session with some gentle backward bending of your low back, a short walk and light stretching, similar to stretches done before starting.
Those are some of the ways we wanted to share with you about how to avoid pain from gardening, but if you have been gardening for a long time and have noticed some pain because of it please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we are here to help. You can contact us using this contact form or give us a call at 201-585-7300 to set up a consultation.