Gardening is usually one of the first activities of the season where we subject ourselves to sudden bursts of activity and really put our backs at risk. With spring in the air, you look forward to getting out in the garden but you’re not looking forward to feeling sore after all the kneeling, pulling, leaning, and twisting. After a long winter of not moving our bodies this way, it’s important to prepare your spine, joints, and muscles. Growing up on a farm in North Reading MA, yard work has been important in my family and there was never any time for a day off because of back pain.
Here are some tips to help you have a relaxing, enjoyable, and pain-free gardening season:
- Warm Up and Stretch: As with any form of exercise, stretching must be done before and after the activity. Take a short brisk walk first to warm up your muscles and get your body in work mode. Stretching should target your back and core, shoulders and arms, and leg muscles.
- Minimize Repetitive Motions: Don’t try to get everything done in one session. Alternating tasks is a good way to break up the repetitive motions.
- Digging: Make sure you keep the shovel in front of you and avoid twisting motions. If you need to get to an area on the side, re-position yourself to keep the shovel in line with your body. The same goes for raking – pull the rake towards your body, not off to the sides.
- Kneel, Don’t Bend: Use a kneeling pad to protect your knees. Make sure you actually use the pad and don’t do the work while bending. When you bend for a prolonged time, the ligaments in your back are overstretched. To avoid this from happening, keep your back straight like a plank. If you have to bend down, hinge at your hips and keep your spine straight.
- Lifting: If you are transporting heavy pots or planters, use a wheelbarrow. When you are lifting to put them in the wheelbarrow, make sure to get the power from your legs instead of your back and never twist while holding heavy objects.
- Rest and Hydration: Make sure you take breaks to stand up straight and stretch about every 15-30 minutes. Bring a water bottle outside with you to stay hydrated, especially on warmer days.
- Prevention: If you find that you are still feeling sore or stiff, it is time to consider Chiropractic care. Often times, it doesn’t matter how much you warm up and stretch; if there is an underlying spinal problem, you will eventually feel the effects of it, which means it has already done some damage to your health. Don’t wait any longer!