- By Mariah Zajac
Gardening is an increasingly popular hobby for many adults, especially with the recent increase in environmental awareness. It offers the chance to relax, relieve stress, express creativity and help the environment... all while getting some pleasant exercise.
It doesn't take long, however, to discover that those hours of pleasure can come at a cost of days or weeks of backache and stiffness. Whether you’re looking to plant a window box, or landscape your yard, your body needs to stay in tune this season.
The many rigors of gardening can lead to increased chances for strain or injury. However, with a little knowledge and a bit of planning, you can look forward to a season of enjoyment while greatly reducing your chance of developing a backache problem.
Don’t let gardening take its toll on your body. By following the tips offered by the therapists of Physiotherapy Associates, you’ll not only do your part to help the environment, but also save your back and allow yourself to fully enjoy this gardening season - and the next.
1. Maintain a wide base of support, feet farther than shoulder width.
2. Bend at your hips and knees, avoiding bending at the waist and keeping your spine long.
3. Keep your arms and whatever you’re lifting close to your body as you stand upright and carry the item to the garden.
If you’re conscious of your body while gardening, but are still experiencing pain afterward, you may be suffering from a common injury like a sprain or strain. Often, these injuries can be treated through physical therapy.
A postural strain results from long periods of time sitting or standing and with working in a forward-flexed position. Treatments for postural strain include cold packs, and physical therapy to correct the posture causing the pain. Another common injury is a disc strain or bulge. Prolonged sitting, repeated bending, heavy lifting and/or working in a forward-bent position cause the strain or bulge. In its advanced stage, disc bulging or “slip disc” can progress to a herniation or rupture, which might require surgery. Physical therapy relieves this injury and corrects movements, in many cases preventing the need for surgery.
Joints are prone to injury when gardening as well. Sprains and strains result from sudden movements, twisting, overexertion, slips or falls. You may also experience a “locking” of the joints in your low back. Rest and physical therapy relieves the spasm, “locking” and pain, and progressive exercise restores flexibility and strength of the joint. You may also experience joint stiffness after repeated stress and irritation to the muscles, ligaments and joints, or an untreated sprain or strain injury. Physical therapy increases mobilization, and offers strengthening exercises to relieve tightness and improve movement.
Stretches for Gardeners
Stretch before gardening and yard work to loosen up your muscles and reduce the chance of disc strain. Use these same stretches to cool down after gardening and yard work.
Stretching should not cause pain in either your back, or your arms or legs. If you experience pain with any of these stretches, stop and consult your physician.
Standing Back Bends
Low Back Rotation
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