Now that spring has arrived, many homeowners across the country will jump at the opportunity to spend more time outdoors and take part in numerous physical activities to beautify their property. While pulling weeds, planting, mulching, and mowing provide an excellent physical workout, they do carry several risks, especially for a body that’s not prepared for the sudden increase in the nature and intensity of the activity.
According to doctors, “Going straight into vigorous gardening is the same as an elite athlete going straight into competition from a break.” This time of year, chiropractic clinics see a spike in gardening-related injuries, particularly upper and lower back strain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and several other strains and pains that involve the soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments. Repetitive motions, lifting heavy objects improperly, and prolonged physical labor are the main culprits, affecting everyone ages 30 to 60, although the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
The good news is, most spring gardening injuries are totally preventable.Click To Tweet By taking the following simple precautions, you can significantly decrease your chance of injury and make spring gardening as enjoyable as possible.
Tips for Safe Spring Gardening
- Always warm up. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends stretching for at least 15 minutes before reaching out for the gardening tools. Trunk rotations, knee-to-chest pulls, side bends, and other simple stretches will warm up the major muscle groups and decrease the risk of pain, stiffness, and injury.
- Take regular breaks. A common way gardeners injure themselves is by staying in one position – usually a strenuous one – for prolonged periods. If you feel pain while you’re gardening, it’s usually a signal from your body that it’s time to take a break or change positions, in order to allow your muscles to relax and readjust. Don’t forget so breathe deeply while you work and stretch (the right way!) at least every 30 or 40 minutes.
- Maintain proper posture. Squatting, stooping, slouching, and bending at the waist repeatedly while doing garden chores can put unnecessary strain on your knees and back, making gardening a difficult task. Using your feet to lift and your abdominal muscles to dig and pull will maintain your spine fairly straight and elongated while giving you much more strength to carry out the task at hand.
- Stay hydrated. Whether you’re just moving a few flower pots around or spending the whole day out in the garden, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting the necessary amount of water before, during, and after your gardening session. Water regulates the temperature of your body, lubricates your joints, and ensures the transport of nutrients throughout the body to give you energy and enable your body to perform at its highest level.
- Lift properly. Every time you bend your back to lift flower pots, gardening tools, or lawn furniture, you are putting your back at risk and exposing yourself to serious conditions such as spinal degeneration or disc disease. To minimize back strain whenever bending and lifting objects, always lift with your legs and bend at the knees, lowering your entire body and placing as little weight on the back as possible. When handling equipment such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers, stand up straight and hold it as close to your body as possible so that the thigh and gluteal muscles are doing most of the work.
- Use well-designed tools. The sensible and safe use of properly designed tools can be of significant help in reducing the risk of back pain during spring gardening. When buying spades, hoes, and forks, make sure the length of the handle is adjustable to minimize strain. If possible, choose lightweight tools with push and pull action and automatic mechanisms that cut out a lot of the backbreaking gardening tasks such as digging.
- Alternate activities. Changing tasks regularly helps to avert repetitive strain injury, so be sure to switch the side on which you are operating the gardening equipment and change your stance and motion often to avoid knee and back injury.
Aside from being a relaxing and delightful activity for those truly passionate, gardening has significant benefits for the body. It helps strengthen all major muscle groups, including the legs, buttocks, abdomen, shoulders, and back, it increases flexibility, and it is also an effective way to burn calories and increase your fitness. However, it can also take a toll on the unprepared body, so if you see no improvement in your soreness and stiffness after a couple of days, visit your doctor of chiropractic to get back on your feet as soon as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.