Now that it is Springtime, many of us spend our time outside, doing yard work and gardening. Now, when you think “gardening sounds peaceful”, it should be… but there can be variables that harm your body, especially as we get older. Gardening motions like weeding, raking, digging, mulching, can all cause irritation due from strain and stress on your joints and muscles. Your back, neck, wrists, shoulders, and knees are all at a higher risk of discomfort and injury during gardening. Thankfully, we have 6 tips to help prevent any injury, because you’re planting cucumbers, not hot-cold packs on your lower back.
#1- Walk it off and stretch it out. Before you get to gardening, do some neck rolls, and stretch your back, arms and legs. Then, instead of walking straight to your garden, walk right by it, and keep walking… for about 5-10 minutes. Get the blood flowing!
#2- Avoid staying in the same position for too long. This goes for almost anything, not just gardening. If you’re going to be kneeling, try to be on one knee, and keep the other foot planted flat on the ground. After a couple minutes, switch it off. If you were on your left knee, and right foot, move to your right knee and left foot. It may also be of help and comfort to use a kneeling pad if you have one.
#3- If it hurts- stop. Once you’re gardening for a while, you may start to notice a little discomfort. Even though at the time, it may be minute, it’s best to be safe than sorry. In which case, get up, and take a break. This may be a good time, to go inside and grab a nice cold glass of water, or just take a quick stroll throughout the yard and take in the fresh Springtime air. While you are taking a break, stretch out that body part that had any discomfort in the opposite direction it was in while the discomfort occurred.
#4- Work smart, not hard. Gardening is supposed to be fun and relaxing. It’s not meant to be back-breaking work. So don’t let it. Use tools like a wheelbarrow, (or the little red wagon that has been sitting in your basement or shed for years), to move heavy mulch and topsoil instead of lifting it, risking your knees and back. (** Aesthetic tip- maybe even use the wheelbarrow or wagon as planters if you have extra, or plan to buy another. Re-purposing is all the rage right now! See examples below!)
#5- Mind your body when you pick something up or pull on something, such as a weed, or a shovel full of dirt. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominal’s, and keep your neck, back, and wrists straight as you lift or pull objects. Avoid twisting your spine or knees when moving things to the side. Properly move your feet or pivot on your toes to turn your full body as one unit.
#6- Top off your soil, and shake it off. Once you’re done gardening for the time being, stretching your back, neck and limbs will help you from cramping. And as you walk back to go back inside, walk around the garden a few times, or take a nice brisk walk down the block, before fully settling down for the day.