With spring time rolling around quickly on the east coast, countless people flock outside for different activities. One of those most often performed is gardening/yardwork. People love to get those flower beds looking pretty to go with all the sunshine! However, with this increased motivation to get active comes an influx in patients in most Rehab clinics. Most often people tend to not pay attention to body mechanics, or if they do the long hours spent gardening finds the body fatiguing and falling into improper positions. We see complaints anywhere from overuse shoulder/elbow/hand injuries to knee pain from squatting/kneeling as well as neck and low back pain.
To avoid these common injuries and pitfalls, you need to gardening like exercise or a sport. You should always warm-up and not head directly from inside to out without doing so. This includes stretching the large muscle groups of both the lower and upper body in preparation for movement and to take some stress off joints during strenuous tasks (you should also stretch afterwards as well). Several other crucial strategies to remember are:
– Plan out your time, and be honest about how much time you can physically afford to perform the task. Everything will eventually get done, do not worry!
– Good body mechanics are key! When lifting remember to bend the knees, keep back straight, hold object close to body, and lift through the legs not the back.
– Avoid all twisting motions and refrain from bending forward for long periods. If you must bend forward, keep the core tight and back straight to limit stress on the low back. Sitting on a small stool is your best option.
– Alternate tasks, not needing to completely finish one before, to use different muscle groups and avoid placing repetitive stress upon the spine and extremities
– Take small breaks every 30-60 minutes to get a drink of water
– Stop before you are fatigue as this is the time when most injuries occur
If you begin to notice and pain and soreness make sure to stop and stretch, ice and rest. If the pain persists more than a few days, it is best to then consult your MD or Rehab Provider.