With the (mostly) very good weather we have had lately, spring definitely feels like it’s on its way, so naturally everyone is starting to get outside more – especially in their gardens. At Care For Health we all love a bit of gardening, but gardening can often be a source of a lot of pain for people – namely back or knee pain. It also tends to be the biggest reason that people stop gardening, as they can’t last the day without it causing severe problems. So I’m going to give you my top tips and advice to allow you, and your gardens, to stay in tip top condition.
My top tips:
Make sure to prep well. Gather all the tools you need in advance to save you time and effort collecting things up later. For smaller tools, these can all be placed in a bucket so they are easier to carry and you can use an empty wheelie bin or wheelbarrow for the bigger ones. Wear flexible/loose fitting clothing so that your movement isn’t restricted.
It sounds silly, but gardening is actually a form of exercise, so make sure to warm up for it properly. Have a walk around the garden a few times first and do some gentle stretches before setting about ripping those weeds out.
• Take a break/stay hydrated
Try to take a short break every 30 mins or so. This doesn’t mean you have to rest for half an hour, but just grabbing some water and having a little walk/stretch will drastically improve how you feel by the end of the day
• Pace yourself
Make sure to break the jobs up. Start with smaller jobs that require less work and stress before moving on to the big jobs. Turning over a whole vegetable patch or compost heap might seem like a good idea, but it can take a lot of effort. By mixing up the jobs, it gives your posture and your muscles a bit of a break, and you’re less likely to feel it the next day. •
• Work smarter – not harder!
Build yourself some raised beds. This will save you tonnes of effort in the long term as you’ll need to bend over less, but your plants will thank you too. Where possible, use longer tools suck as forks, tillers and weeders so that you can work more from a standing position (a lot of tools these days come with telescopic shafts). When raking or sweeping spread your feet to get a stable base, bend your knees slightly and tense your core. Keep your motions slow and smooth rather than quick and hurried.•
• Posture, posture, posture
If it is feasible, use a small stool to sit on and keep the shoulders up and back. If you are working on flat or low beds, make yourself a stable base. This will help keep your back straight and free of strain, but also allow you to move forwards and backwards by shifting your weight. Use a cushion under the knees to avoid any pains there or get yourself a garden kneeler.
• Lifting and shifting We all have an idea of how we should bend and lift, but do we actually do it? Make sure to squat and lift where possible – or if the object is cumbersome and big, hinge from the hips (sticking the bum out), rather than bending from the low back. When carrying items keep them as close to your body as possible, and avoid swinging or twisting when emptying/dumping the contents.
| • Finishing up|
After you’re done make sure to do some more gentle stretches, (if you are achey, grab an ice pack), and then sit back and admire your hard work. Most importantly though – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I hope this helps you all, and if you need any further advice (especially regarding stretches or the gardening posture mentioned above), ask myself or the Sports Therapists directly and we’d be happy to help.
Mark Fairclough, DC, MChiro