As the sun is shining, bulbs are appearing and the days are getting a little longer – it must be time to get out and blitz the garden.
This is indeed the time of year when gardeners everywhere rush out to their gardens with gusto – and with little thought as to whether they are bodily prepared for the exercise which they are about to do.
So here are some handy gardening tips which may help you prevent any injuries whilst out in the garden this spring.
Top 10 Tips for Pain Free Gardening
1 – Warm Up
Gardening is a physical activity and like any other exercise requires your muscles to be warmed up before you start and stretched afterwards. A few flexibility exercises prior to starting work and 5 minutes stretching and a hot bath after will help prevent stiffness the following day.
2 – Pace Yourself
Start slow and build up your workload over several weeks. It is safer to chip away at the jobs for an hour, a few times a week, then think your body will cope with 3 full days of digging. You wouldn’t hit the gym for 5 hrs after a winter of inactivity without expecting to suffer from pain or stiffness, or a possible injury.
3 – Vary Your Gardening Activity
Try and vary your activity in the garden, avoid hours of digging or bending in one go and in the same direction. Try not to overreach and use something soft for your knees if you are doing lots of kneeling. Allow your muscles time to rest by limiting each activity to ½ hour before having a break or moving on to a different task. Walk around for a bit to see what you have achieved!
4 – Lift Correctly
Incorrect lifting is the biggest cause of back injuries in the garden– always lift with bent knees and a straight back (think of a weightlifter’s posture) and keep the object close to your body. Use a lifting aid or ask for help before moving heavy pots – the blade of a spade can also be used under a pot to act like a sledge and allow you to push a pot about.
5 – Clear as You Go
It is all too easy to build an ever increasing pile of vegetation which you try and move all in one go at the end of a long day, when you are tired and getting cold. It is much better to make several lighter trips to the compost heap throughout the day; to help avoid the risk of a back injury that may have you out of action for weeks.
6 – Listen to Your Back
If you start feeling pain in your back while gardening– STOP; the roses can wait. Pain is your back’s way of saying it is tired and therefore vulnerable to injury.
7 – Get the Right Tools
There is such a wide range of equipment designed to make your life easier in the garden; long handled hoes, pruners and forks will limit time bent over. Go on, treat yourself! Oh, and don’t forget your hat and sunscreen and drink lots of water too.
8 – Raised Beds
If you are redesigning a garden, then try to incorporate raised beds where possible – bring the plants to you to save bending so much.
9 – After Care
When you finish a hard day in the garden, have a hot bath with a handful of Epsom salts or use a hot water bottle for 20 minutes, to help reduce the chance of feeling seized up the following day.
Collapsing on the sofa with a glass of wine for all your good work might sound appealing but you may struggle to get up after! It doesn’t take much for your joints and muscles to get stiff as they cool down from over doing it.
10 – Seek Advice
If post gardening pain does not settle in 3 to 4 days, get some advice or treatment from one of our practitioners. If you already know you have a back problem, a check-up before embarking into the garden could save you weeks in pain.
Most importantly, Please take care of your body so that you can continue to enjoy your gardening!
Better Health Channel. (2015). Exercise safety. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/exercise-safety