With spring well underway and summer fast approaching, people are making the most of getting out in the garden. From mowing the lawns, planting the flower beds or veggie patches, we are moving our bodies and loading the muscles in ways they may have not been used to over the winter months.
When gardening you should protect yourself and take appropriate precautions when you are working with tools, chemical and insects. Here at Central Lakes Physio, we regularly see people with injuries that have been sustained whilst gardening!
What are the most common gardening injuries?
Over the past few months we have seen an abundance of clients with muscular strains of the lower back and pelvis area.
Other common injuries include:
- Neck strains
- Shoulder strains
- Knee pain – often from prolonged kneeling
- Repetitive wrist/elbow strains
How can you keep garden injuries at bay?
- Work within your limits
- It can be quite easy to get stuck in on your hands and knees for hours at a time or hunched over pulling weeds out (hopefully not too many!), or even lifting a heavy bag of compost without asking for help. Know what you can and can’t do and ask a friend or family member to help out when needed. It may be wise to seek professional help for bigger tasks or things that are out of your capabilities.
- This fits in well with knowing your limits and the ease of getting carried away. Set yourself manageable goals and have regular breaks to change position and stretch. It is good to change your activity every 20 minutes or so to avoid overload of muscles.
- Use equipment
- This could be a little stool to sit/kneel on to prevent kneeling on the hard Central Otago ground for too long! Or use a wheelbarrow to transport garden waste and soil.
- Check in regularly to assess how your overall body posture is. Try to avoid long periods leaning over to prevent neck and back pain. If lifting heavy objects, ensure you are keeping the object close to your body and you are bending down with your legs to pick it up. Again, ask a friend to help if it is too heavy! Posture also includes being aware of your extremities – grip strength is at its maximum when the wrist is in a relaxed, neutral position. Studies have shown that people lose up to 25% of their grip strength when their wrist is bent. This is important to note when using hand tools or lifting.
- Warming up and cooling down
- The intensity of gardening can sometimes be underestimated and regarded as a casual activity. This being said, appropriate warm ups and cool downs are infrequently undertaken. Stretching before and afterwards can help minimise muscle imbalances, prevent injuries and build gardening endurance. See below for some exercise ideas.
- Strengthening/Pilates core work
- Like most injuries, prevention is best! Keeping your body strong and moving efficiently can also reduce risk of garden injuries. Why not come along to one of our Pilates classes to start building strength and endurance to keep the niggles at bay?
Some exercise ideas!
- Warm up
- Be sure to get your body ready for action with a 5-10 minute brisk walk around the garden.
- Dynamic stretching is a great way to prepare the muscles for the activity at hand. These might include:
- Arms swings
- Cool Down
- Once you have finished your session in the garden, static stretches will be helpful:
- Standing lumbar extension
- Spine twist
- Neck stretches
- Wrist stretches
These exercises are great to help keep you fit, healthy and injury-free whilst gardening!
If you do have a pre-existing injury which is limiting you with any of these exercises, please come and see one of our highly trained physiotherapists at Central Lakes Physio for specific advice. Or book in if you feel you have sustained a gardening injury and we will endeavour to get you back out there and into action!