Gardening is a great way to stay active while having fun. Unfortunately, our inner “weekend warrior” tends to come out as soon as the first warm spring days are upon us and we take on too many tasks, too quickly. Many Ontarians will sustain injuries due to poor technique and improper use of equipment while gardening this season. We could easily avoid many of the injuries associated with gardening by following these tips:
Warm-Up Before Gardening:
Unless you have been living down south for the winter months, it is not likely that you have participated in any gardening activities for the past five to six months. Just like when you start a new workout routine, your body needs to adapt to the new level of activity which comes with gardening. Warm up your muscles before you get started with your gardening activities. Go for a short 10-15 minute walk to get your body loosened up and your muscles warmed up. Straighten Up Canada is a great app available for free from the Canadian Chiropractic Association. The app has a series of stretches which are easy and quick to do that you can use as part of your warm-up and cool down routine when gardening. Ideally, through the winter months, you have kept active with other activities so when it some time to start gardening, it is not a shock to your system!
Lift With Your Legs When Gardening:
We all know we should lift with our legs but we often do not. Many of the tasks associated with gardening include lifting whether it is moving bags of dirt or mulch or plants. Lifting with your legs gives you the power and stability to move heavier objects without injuring your lower back. Engage your core by keeping your abs tight. Get close to the object you are trying lift. Keep your feet shoulder width apart. Avoid slouching your back as you lift. Keep your back nice and straight. Avoid twisting as you lift. The object you are attempting to lift should be square in front of you and not off to the side. Keep the weight close to your body. Exhale as you lift the object. Always ask for help if the item is too heavy or awkwardly shaped for you to lift safely on your own. It will make the gardening task easier and safer!
Alternate Your Gardening Tasks:
Gardening will put you in nearly every position from sitting to standing to kneeling. It is important to change up your positioning frequently. Stand for a while, then move to a task where you can sit, then move on to kneeling. It’s ok if you do not get an entire item scratched off of your to-do list. Remember to take breaks frequently to give your body a rest.
Use The Proper Tools For The Job When Gardening:
When gardening, it is not only essential to use the right tools for the job but also to make sure the tools are the right size for you. If you are using a rake that is too short for you, for example, you will be working in a hunched position. This will put extra strain on your back and shoulders. Wear gloves to help avoid blistering from the repetitive use of gardening tools. Make sure you are in good footwear as well! Your shoes should have good arch support and good grip on the sole. For more information on the importance of good footwear, check out our previous blog post “Custom Foot Orthotics”. If you find kneeling is difficult and putting too much pressure on your knees, use a foam pad or support to lessen the discomfort. Gardening is easier and safer for you back when you use the right tools!
Gardening can be very relaxing. However, do not ignore those aches and pains until it is too late! If something doesn’t feel right, stop doing that activity and seek help from your chiropractor, physiotherapist, and massage therapist. Take care of your back and enjoy your gardening season! Contact us for more information. Visit us online or call our Byward Clinic at 613-860-8600 or our Glebe Clinic at 613-237-9000.