Now that the weather is getting nicer, many of us are eager to get our hands dirty. Gardening is strenuous physical exercise that can result in injury if you are not careful. A bag of soil can weigh as much as 20lbs and is usually awkward to carry. Stooping, reaching, and crouching for long periods in awkward positions can put excess stress and strain on ligaments, muscles, and joints. You could hurt more than just your green thumb. Back, shoulder, and neck injuries are common among gardeners.
Note: Sheddon’s physiotherapists from the Oakville and Burlington Physio Clinics are prepared and determined to help you get back to your regular activities.
It is important to think of gardening just like any other form of exercise. You wouldn’t start an exercise program at the gym with a 3 hour workout and you shouldn’t begin your gardening at the same intensity either. If you’re eager to get going begin with a 20 to 30 minute session, but make sure you warm up and stretch before and after gardening. A brisk walk of 5-10 minutes and stretching the legs, shoulders, and arms will help the body prepare for the stresses of gardening. Try to switch tasks often and take frequent breaks. Do not stay in one position for longer than 15 minutes. If it
is your first time in the garden since last year take it easy and wait a day to see how you feel before venturing out again.
You can prevent back and repetitive strain injuries by using correct lifting techniques, keeping your back in good alignment and using ergonomic tools. See the section on lifting techniques for more information. If you begin to have pain stop what you are doing. If your pain lasts for more than 3 days seek help, do not hesitate to contact one of our physiotherapists.
Remember to follow these tips:
- Begin slowly with a 20 to 30 minute session
- Warm up and cool down
- Stretch before and after each session
- Use correct lifting technique and ergonomically correct tools
- Take breaks often and avoid staying in one position for longer than 15 minutes
- Try to avoid awkward positions
Lift With Your Legs
Lifting can put considerable stress and strain on the ligaments, joints, and muscles of the back. It is important to always lift with good technique so that when you have to lift something heavy you will have good habits and prevent injuring your back. The most important things to remember are
1. Get low,
2. Hug the load,
3. Lift with your legs, and
4. Stop if you have pain.
If you are going to be doing a lot of heavy lifting you will need strong legs.
The spine is designed in such a way that when you have a neutral back the load of what you are carrying is evenly distributed putting the least amount of stress and strain on the body. It is normal to have a small curve in the low back and neck and these curves should be maintained when lifting.