The sun is coming out and the beautiful spring weather is getting people outside, which means it's the season for yard work! It is refreshing for us Oregonians to get some vitamin D however, it is also important to be aware of proper body mechanics while working in the yard.
Tips to help minimize pain or prevent injury
Common gardening activities, such as digging, planting, weeding, mulching, and raking can cause stress and strain on muscles and joints. This is especially true for senior citizens and those who are normally sedentary. Different body areas such as the shoulders, neck, back, and knees can be vulnerable to injury during gardening. The following is a list of tips to consider incorporating into your gardening activities to avoid aches and pains.
- Warm up before you garden. A 10 minute brisk walk and stretches for the spine and limbs are good ways to warm up.
- Change positions frequently to avoid stiffness and cramping.
- Be aware of how your body feels as you work in your garden. If a part of your body starts to ache, take a break, stretch that body part in the opposite direction it was in, or switch to a different gardening activity. For example, if you’ve been leaning forward for more than a few minutes, and your back starts to ache, slowly stand up, and gently lean backwards a few times.
- Make use of a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move heavy planting materials or tools. Be sure to keep your back straight while using a wheelbarrow.
- If kneeling on both knees causes discomfort in your back, try kneeling on one and keep the other foot on the ground. Use knee pads or a gardening pad when kneeling if possible.
- If kneeling or leaning down to the ground causes significant pain in your back or knees, consider using elevated planters to do your gardening.
- 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.
- Avoid bending your wrist upwards when pulling things or using gardening tools. Instead, keep your wrist straight and use your shoulder muscles to pull and lift.
- End your gardening session with some gentle backwards bending of your low back, a short walk, and light stretching similar to stretches done during your warm up.
What to do if you experience pain
If you experience pain that lasts more than a day or two you have probably done too much. Take some time to rest and if the pain subsides, consider how you can apply some of the tips listed above to avoid aches in the future. If pain persists, contact our office. We are here to assist with any and all of your orthopedic needs! If you simply have questions or concerns you would like to discuss with one of our physical therapists click on the button below to schedule a free screen.
Avruskin, A. Retrieved from http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail/gardening.