Gardening has grown in popularity over the last few years and many of us have become avid amateur gardeners. Gardening can be a great source of relaxation, exercise and satisfaction but, like any other form of exercise, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Although it isn’t usually associated with intensive exercise, gardening can actually provide a very good workout! Injuries are not uncommon, particularly to the lower back, if we dive into the garden the moment the sun comes out without preparing our bodies.
Follow these simple tips to keep you pain and injury free in the garden this summer:
Like any other form of exercise it is important to warm up and stretch your joints and muscles before you start digging, raking and lifting heavy pots. Have a brisk walk around the garden to increase blood flow to your muscles and raise your heart rate while you decide on the tasks for the day. Follow this with some simple stretches for your back, legs and arms which will only take a few minutes but will prepare your body and help prevent injury.
Try to maintain the natural curves in the spine. Most gardening activities involve bending forward, reaching and lifting which puts a lot of pressure on the lower back if done incorrectly. The back muscles are much smaller than those in the legs and are not designed for heavy lifting. If you do need to move heavy pots, stones etc. bend from the hips and knees and use your strong leg muscles while keeping your back straight. Avoid twisting and over-reaching by moving your feet and getting as close as possible to what you are working on.
At Petersfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic we can give you advice on how to lift correctly.
Use a Kneeling Mat
Kneeling really compresses the knee joints so use a kneeling mat to add extra cushioning. It will also stop you bending forward from your waist and putting pressure on your back, therefore having a double benefit! However, even with a mat, try to avoid kneeling for too long especially when weeding.
Try to take a break from the same repetitive activity every 30 – 45 minutes. Stand up and stretch backwards a few times to ease the pressure on your back and straighten your knees. Move onto another gardening activity involving different movements to prevent overuse injuries. It is important to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather, so why not use the break to reward yourself with a cup of tea or, towards the end of the day, a cold gin and tonic!
At Petersfield Physio and Sports Injury Clinic we can teach you the right exercises to ease stress and strain on your joints.
Soil contains many microorganisms and bacteria which can enter the bloodstream through tiny cuts and scratches. Wear good quality gardening gloves to protect your hands, not only from thorns, sharp stones and nettles, but also from the bacteria in the soil.
Work at Waist Height
When planting baskets and pots or pricking out seedlings, work at a table if possible. This will avoid the need to bend forward putting unnecessary strain on your back. Also think about having raised beds built, creating different levels in your garden to add interest and structure.
Strengthen Your Muscles
Strengthening your legs and core muscles will encourage you to use them to lift and bend, rather than bending over from the waist and putting pressure on your back. Strong muscles will also support and protect your joints from injury.
At Petersfield Physio we have a Personal Trainer who can devise an exercise programme for you, or why not join our Pilates class to strengthen your core muscles?
If you have overdone it in the garden and need some help call us on 01730 267645 or enquire through our website. We can provide fast, effective treatment and advice to get you back out there.