The warmer weather is upon us and this means many of us are starting to spend more time in our gardens doing movements, tasks and activities that we have not done throughout the winter months. Gardening can be very strenuous on our bodies and those of us that are more sedentary over the winter months may not be conditioned for this activity. Unfortunately this situation can put you at an increased risk of injury in the garden. As a preventative measure, the practitioners at Rebalance Sports Medicine have put our heads together to come up with a list of tips and suggestions to prevent injuries and help you enjoy your garden all season long.
1. Gardening is like any other sport, hobby or physical activity. Your body, muscles, joints and tissues require a proper warm up before each time you go out into the garden. A good warm up will prepare the body for the positions and muscle demands required while gardening. Your warm up sequence should involve involve squatting, reaching in a variety of directions, twisting, bending and walking.
2. When you are lifting think of keeping your spine in a neutral position while bending at your hips and knees.
3. While you are lifting, reaching, pulling and digging remember to keep your shoulders back and down instead of allowing them to shrug upwards or round forward. Always think of engaging the muscle in-between your shoulder blades.
4. When you are lifting, try not to hold your breath and engage your core muscles by tightening an imaginary girdle that circles around your abdomen and low back region.
5. Use gardening tools that are ergonomic and promote good postures. Try holding and maneuvering the tools while in the store to ensure they are a comfortable weight and the handle shape feels comfortable for your body type.
6. Use a wheel barrow to move heavy items whenever possible.
7. When planting, weeding or performing activities that require you to be low to the ground for prolonged periods of time consider squatting down, kneeling or sitting on a small gardening stool instead of bending forward at the waist.
8. When digging, push the shovel vertically into the ground and step on the blade instead of using your upper body to generate all of the force. Also remember to lift and move only small quantities of soil at a time.
9. When raking, remember to use your whole body and step into the movement instead of just leaning forward and using your arms.
10. Plan to take stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes and take this opportunity to drink water in order to rehydrate.
11. Don’t stay in the same position for more than 20-30 minutes. You don’t have to work on one task at a time. Have a few tasks that require different positions on the go at once so that you can switch constantly.
12. Spread the work over a reasonable number of days. Don’t try to get everything finished all at once.
13. Spend a good amount of time stretching after you are finished gardening. You should rotate your spine and stretch your arms, hips, low back and leg muscles especially.
14. If you are sore the day after you have been working in the garden then give your body a day or two to recover.
Remember that if you notice a region of your body that remains sore for over a week and gets re-aggravated each time you garden, we recommend that you visit one of our trusted health professionals so that they can properly assess you determine and help you determine the best course of action.
Happy Gardening from the team at Rebalance Sports Medicine.