Guilderland, NY – Summer is finally here, and for many of us, it means sunny days spent caring for our prized vegetable and flower gardens. Just as we don’t want weeds, we don’t want to deal with the aches and pains often associated with long hours spent digging, stooping, and kneeling among the plants. Follows these tips so you can exercise your green thumb without causing strain on your back:
Begin with a warm up: Gardening can turn into a strenuous workout, so it is a good idea to treat it as you would an exercise routine. A brisk 5 minute walk around the neighborhood and some stretching exercises for the arms, legs, and back will get the heart pumping, the blood flowing, and warm up the muscles and joints. Dedicating some time to a warm up will adequately prepare your body for bending to pull weeds, lifting bags of mulch, and pushing wheelbarrows.
Lift correctly: While rushing to get tasks done in the garden, it is easy to forgot to use proper lifting technique. Be sure to bend from the hips and the knees, NOT from your waist. Carry objects with both hands and as close to your body as you can; over-reaching and twisting, especially if you are bending from the waist is a common mechanism for lower back injury. Remember to engage your core muscles, this stabilizes and protects your back. Proper lifting technique should be utilized regardless of how light the object may feel. When moving heavy objects over a distance, consider using a wagon to minimize lifting.
Get on your hands and knees: The quadruped position, in which you have both knees, both feet, and one hand in contact with the ground (while you dig, plant or pull with your other hand) is safe, stable position for your body. Supporting yourself on your hands and knees puts much less strain on your lower back as compared to bending at the waist while standing, or sitting cross-legged with a rounded back. Consider using knee pads for extra cushioning if kneeling in this position causes discomfort.
Change positions often: Make sure to change positions every 15 to 30 minutes. Divide each task up into sections so you switch up your posture, body position, and activity to avoid the strain of repetitive motions. For example: weed one garden bed, then stand up and water it before moving on to weed the next bed.
Take breaks: Every hour, take some extra time to stretch, drink water, and rest in the shade. Admittedly, pacing yourself can be difficult when we often set a goal to complete a weeklong task in our one completely free weekend. Your body will thank you for taking periodic stretch and rest breaks.
Gardening is an enjoyable hobby that can benefit both physical and mental wellbeing. Following these strategies will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor pain free! If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to contact us at the Sports & Spinal Wellness Center at 518-869-3415. Please visit our website for more information at www.sportsandspinalwellness.com. We would be happy to be a part of your healthcare team.