After a very damp and rainy April, many of us might be finally getting ready to do some spring time work around our homes. Although the to do list might be long with various projects, one of the more common springtime activity that many of us will be getting our gardens ready for the spring and summer planting season.Sometimes these sorts of tasks can be daunting, especially when we have difficulty doing them without pain, or perhaps fear of injury that we may have sustained previously. In fact, it is quite common that this time of year our patients will come to us with injuries that they sustained while working in their gardens.
Now before we throw too much shade, we need to remember gardening can be an extremely rewarding and therapeutic activity. Not only is it an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors, but it can also be a great way for us to get some physical activity in. We encourage those who are taking to planting this year to treat gardening like any other sport…that’s right! A sport, not so unlike many others. It involves strategy, physical endurance, feets of strength, sometimes coordination, equipment/tool use…just to name a few parallels. Gardening has also been shown to have many benefits to our mental health as well, with studies showing those who maintain a garden typically show decreased levels in stress, anxiety and depression. So it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get dirty, the sport of gardening awaits, so let’s make sure we are prepared.
Like any sport, prepping the body for load is essential in mitigating injury or stress on the body. A good warm up will get us ready to do the various movements that might be ahead of us. Now I’m not talking about running laps, but certainly some gentle mobility exercises can go a long way. Best advice here is to keep things simple, a short walk around your property or even on the spot is a great way to get started. Passive stretching of the upper and lower body is also a great way to limber up for the tasks ahead.
Other helpful strategies to help prevent gardening injuries include using proper body mechanics while planting. It is important to not bend, as we often say “things that bend break”. We encourage patients to hinge at the hips for any lifting or planting. If this is difficult we can also kneel (dollar store gardening pads help for those sore knees), and hinge at the hips to shorten the range of motion we have to work through. It is also important to change position frequently, as prolonged time spent in a given position can lead to mechanical compensation and injury. Don’t forget to take breaks when needed, and if necessary do corrective exercises to prevent further injury. Don’t forget to stay well hydrated on those hot spring or summer days as well. Even during the simplest of gardening tasks can result in more perspiration than you think and staying well hydrated while you work can prevent muscle soreness and cramping. A good goal is at least 2 liters of water a day!
Remember the ‘sport’ of gardening does not need to be something that is hard on the body, but it can be. If we change how we approach it however, we can prevent a large majority of common injuries which could prevent you from taking advantage of all the positive things gardening has to offer. Remember, if you do sustain an injury we encourage you to speak with your chiropractor to get moving safely again, do not hesitate to ask for ‘homework exercises’, and get back out there green thumbs!