It is officially time to start getting your yard and garden ready for the season, but is your body up to the task? After a long winter and extended quarantine, you may be at higher risk for injury as you start to engage in physical activity again.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), it is important that gardeners take a health‐conscious approach to prevent injuries and reap the health rewards of gardening. Common gardening tasks, such as digging, planting, weeding, mulching and raking can cause stress and strain on muscles and joints, primarily in the shoulders, back, neck and knees. Help to avoid these aches and pains by following these steps:
1. Warm up – Just as you would before a workout, warm up 10 minutes prior to gardening. This can include a brisk walk or stretches. If you begin to garden without preparation for all the bending, twisting, reaching, and pulling that comes along with it, you may find yourself dealing with one or more of the following issues:
- Muscle soreness
- Straining in your back, shoulders, or knees
- Disk bulge or herniation in your back or neck
- Tendonitis/Bursitis in your shoulders, elbows, and knees
Remember to start slow and progress the level of activity.
2. Don’t overdo it – Make sure to take breaks, even if you are feeling great. If you begin to ache, stretch the aching part of your body out in the opposite direction. Try changing positions or switch to a different gardening activity.
3. Moving heavy items – Use tools such as a wheelbarrow or cart to move heavier materials such as dirt and mulch.
4. Save your knees – Make sure to keep one foot on the ground when kneeling over to give your back more stability. If you must kneel, make sure to use a gardening pad or knee pads. You can also consider using elevated planters.
5. Maintain good posture – When lifting heavier materials, make sure to lift with your legs and use good posture. When pulling weeds, bend at your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and keep your back straight.
6. Take breaks – Make sure you take breaks before you start feeling aches and pains. Rest in shaded areas so that your body can have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.
7. Keep moving – Similar to your warm-up, end your gardening session with some gentle stretches or a short walk. Take a warm bath or shower to help prevent next-day soreness.
If your aches and pains continue to linger for more than 48 hours, a physical therapist can help. Our therapists can show you techniques to help you modify garden activities so you can continue to enjoy them all season without pain. Make sure to request an appointment or FREE Wellness Screen below!
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About Blue Sky Therapy
Blue Sky Therapy delivers innovative physical, occupational, and speech therapy services in skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities home health care, in-home therapy, and outpatient therapy clinics. Blue Sky Therapy owns and operates six outpatient clinics in Ohio and Florida. Ohio locations: Akron, Mansfield, Marion, and Warren. Florida locations: Bonita Springs and Naples.