Summer is upon us once again, which means so is another gardening season and for many Canadians associated back, neck and extremity pain. Many of us fail to recognize the relatively high-intensity activity gardening can be on our bodies. Raking, hoeing, bending and kneeling are all motions that can, if performed incorrectly over extended periods of time, place tremendous stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and skeleton of the human frame potentially leading to injury. Following a few basic steps can significantly reduce your chances of injury this season.
Similar to a high-performance athlete preparing for a competitive event, the importance of a good warm-up and stretching routine cannot be overlooked. This can be achieved through a short walk and performing a series of light stretching exercises to warm up your muscles and improve general circulation.
Upper Body (Sides):
1. Extend your left arm over your head 2. Bend your torso to the right 3. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat to the opposite side Back: 1. In the seated position, bend forward from the hips keeping your head down 2. Grasp your ankles and hold Lower Body: 1. Stand facing a wall or against a tree placing the left arm out for support 2. Bend your right knee and use your right arm to pull your ankle towards your buttock 3. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side 1. Stand 2. Reach your hands to the sky, bend forward to touch your toes 3. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side
Lifting technique is also an essential component of minimizing the risk of injury. Remember to keep loads close to the body, your back straight and let your legs do the lifting, not your back. Avoid bending from the waist and twisting your torso as this movement pattern places the most strain on the discs of your spine and can over time potentially lead to injury. Select Ergonomically Designed Tools: Choosing longer handled items can minimize bending and muscle strain. If kneeling is required, be sure to use a pad and get up and walk around frequently. Ensure that the tools are the correct size and weight for your individual body type.
Take Frequent Breaks:
Taking frequent breaks every hour is also very important and allows your body to adapt to the stresses of the activity. Walking, stretching or relaxing over a glass of ice water is a great way of accomplishing this.
Keeping these easy tips in mind will make your gardening experience a more enjoyable one! Remember to see your chiropractor for regular spinal check-ups to keep your back strong and healthy!
Dr. David Allensen, B.Sc.(Hons.), D.C.