Many clients enjoy gardening as it eases their minds and gives them a sense of connection to nature and their environment. However, with degeneration and aging, or let’s be honest even 20 year olds, pain creeps in during our favourite hobby and it can be upsetting.
Simply put, gardening may be slow paced and relaxing for the mind but it can also be a strenuous activity that requires a lot of muscles and joint movement. You bend, stretch, lift, squat, kneel and extend your arms. This requires your hips, knees, ankles, multiple vertebral sections, shoulders, elbows and wrists to be moving well and in sync. Bet you didn’t think gardening was such hard work!
The key to preventing lower back injuries is to engage your core muscles, keep them strong as well as having good flexibility and mobility in your joints. If this isn’t in place, you would end up with the common strain in the lower back, stiffness in your hips and legs and in a long run injuries and long term numbness or tingling down your extremities (legs and arms).
With that said, we recommend our clients to warm up and cool down after gardening the same way you would before and after going for a work out or to the gym. You would ideally want your muscles to be strong and have good core muscles in your abdomen, pelvic region and glutes. Some squats, planks and light jog would suffice as a good warm up and cool down session.
Another point to note is to use the correct muscles when bending and lifting. Keep the objects you are lifting close to you and bend your knees instead of bending over. When lifting, engaging your core, glutes and your quadriceps are essential when lifting to make sure you are not injuring your back. If you feel a strain, remember to take a break, drink lots of water and rest.
When it comes to your wrist, think about the tools you are using. Use wheelbarrows instead of dragging heavy bags of dirt. Use the correct shovels and digging tools to avoid injuring your wrist. There are now ergonomic tools available and these help you with joint mobility of your elbow and wrist.
Take breaks when you can! It is best just like reps at a gym, to stop every 10 mins for a few minutes before continuing. Most recommend gardening for no longer than 30 mins at a time. We would advise the same and to drink plenty of fluids to keep your muscles hydrated. You can also ice your sore muscles to prevent swelling or to take hot Epsom salt baths after a long day gardening as it can help relief soreness and prevent your muscles from going into a spasm.
Lastly, if your spinal joints or muscles continue to ache after sitting for too long, you can always come to us at Healthworks. We have chiropractors, physiotherapists and physical trainers. All with enough experience and knowledge to help you with your condition, pain or injury. Remember, when it comes to lower back pain, prevention is always better than cure!