Avoid Pain While Gardening
By Western Berks on April 10th, 2018
After a long winter many of us can’t wait to get into the garden! However, if you’ve spent the winter hibernating indoors with limited physical activity, you may be at risk for injury as you head outside to tackle your spring “to-do” list. If you engage in physical activity without preparation for all the bending, twisting, reaching, and pulling that comes with yard work, you may potentially find yourself dealing with muscle aches; back, shoulder and knee strains; back disc bulge or herniation; or shoulder, elbow and knee pain. Here are a few tips to avoid pain while gardening:
1. Prepare your body. Call Western Berks Physical Therapy and schedule an evaluation to develop an exercise plan to help you prepare you for yard and garden work. Start slow and stick to your exercise plan.
2. Warm up by walking and stretching. A 10 minute brisk walk along with stretches for the back, arms and legs are good ways to warm up. Ask you physical therapist for stretches specific to your goals.
3. Practice good posture. Use good body mechanics when you pick something up or pull on something, such as a weed. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominals, and keep your back straight as you lift or pull things. Avoid twisting your spine or knees when moving things to the side; instead, move your feet or pivot on your toes to turn your full body as one unit.
4. Use tools to reduce risk and strain on your body while doing yard work. Use knee pads or a gardening pad. If kneeling or leaning down to the ground causes significant pain in your back or knees, consider using elevated planters to do your gardening. If kneeling on both knees causes discomfort in your back, try kneeling on one and keep the other foot on the ground.
5. Drink water and stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle outside with you and drink from it often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with sugar or alcohol.
6. Take breaks. Allow yourself rest even if you don’t feel tired or strained. If you haven’t done gardening or other yard work in a while, plan to work in short stints, building in time for breaks before you start feeling aches and pains.
7. Stop at the first sign of pain. Any persistent pain lasting more than 48 hours should be addressed by a physical therapist or other medical professional. It is more effective to treat new and recent injuries rather than those lingering for a few months.
8. Cool down after you are finished. 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.
If your aches and pains aren’t managed with these tips and discomfort lingers, our physical therapists can help. We have many techniques to help teach you ways to avoid pain while gardening with the goal of allowing you to continue enjoying all your favorite spring time activities, pain free.