The key to a healthy garden is a healthy gardener
Gardening is an active pursuit that can cause muscle strain to the lower back, shoulders, knees and arms, especially if you are not used to movements involved in gardening and do not move properly.
To get the most of your gardening season, physiotherapists at Edinburgh Sports + Spinal recommend following these tips and techniques.
Don’t be limited by the aches and pains!
Stretch before, during and after activity
Stretching – as a warm-up, as a break during repetitive movement, and as a cool-down – helps you to move more easily, keeps your muscles flexible and relaxed, your joints mobile and relieves unwanted tension and strain.
When stretching, remember:
- Movements should be slow and controlled, you should feel a gentle stretch of the muscle – stretching should never be painful.
- Once you feel a stretch, hold the position for 15 – 30 seconds. Do not bounce or jerk; and repeat each stretch two or three times.
Try some shoulder circles, trunk rotation, and heel/toe raises. You might even ‘rehearse’ movements, like raking, as part of your warm-up. Then, take a few minutes to do some stretches, and repeat them again at the end of your gardening activity. If you begin to feel a bit stiff while gardening, rest and/or perform more stretches.
Find a place and position that permits your body to work in a comfortable position – and try to do your work within this “easy zone”. Activity outside your “easy zone” may cause aches and strains. Avoid potential injury by:
- Moving with your work – keep your work in front of and close to your body to avoid excessive reaching and twisting.
- Lift with your knees bent, only lifting loads you feel safe to lift.
- Do not stay in one position for long periods. Take breaks and move or stretch.
- Start with less and gradually build up
Take a break, spread tasks over a period of time, and take time to recover between projects.
Use the right tools
Gardening tools and equipment are meant to ease work, not cause additional strain. Take measures to fit the tools to you, not you to the tools.
- Keep your supplies within easy reach – consider using an apron with pockets.
- Use tools to reduce work – a wheelbarrow to transport supplies, an extended handle to reduce the reach, and tools with good grips or ergonomic handles.
- If you tend to bend over or reach too far while raking, consider using an ergonomic rake. It will make the job easier and reduce strain to your back.
- Squat or kneel on a kneeling pad. If you have difficulty getting up, use a kneeling pad / bench with a support handle for assistance.
- Give your back, legs and knees a break from stooping and kneeling by using tools with long handles to help with the weeding.
- Squat or sit on the ground to trowel, rather than bending over.
- Choose a shovel with a weight and handle length that is appropriate for your size and for the job you are doing.
- Spread heavy lifting and digging tasks over a week rather than a weekend, and spread major projects throughout the seasons. Take time to recover between them.
- Use a wagon or wheelbarrow to transport supplies and/or to move or carry heavy items.
- Get as close to your work as possible. Don’t stretch beyond your reach or past your stable footing. Rehearse the movement as a stretch first to test your ability and positioning.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands and joints
If you’ve experienced a gardening injury or would like more advice, come see one of our physiotherapists. None of the information in this article is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury. Please call 0131 235 2354 to make an appointment with a physiotherapist at Edinburgh Sports + Spinal.