Safe Lifting Tips for Gardening & Yard Work this Summer

We are well into Summer and many gardening aficionados have anxiously gotten their green thumbs moving again. Unfortunately this unbridled enthusiasm leaves many gardeners waking up with aches and pains come Monday morning. Even though yard work is a non-contact, low impact activity, it is often identified as a cause of pain or discomfort in our patients. This month we will discuss how to get back into your garden symptom free and ways to avoid digging up any new or old injuries.

Typical Gardening Aches and Pains

The most common gardening related pain complaint we hear from our patients is back pain; less common problem areas are the knees and hands. This is no surprise given the repetitive tasks, sustained bending, frequent lifting and awkward positioning that is involved in this popular hobby. But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up on the pleasures of watching your garden bloom this summer. Read on for strategies to keep you pain-free while doing yard work this summer.

Safe Lifting Strategies while Gardening

A common cause of low back pain while gardening is poor lifting technique. Whether you’re lugging new plants in from your car or carrying bags of fertilizer all around the yard, your primary focus should be maintaining safe body mechanics. Here are some tips to keep your back safe while lifting outdoors:

  1. Start with a wide base of support; stand with your feet hips distance apart. Closer or further away makes you more unstable.
  2. Now, squat down, bending at hips and knees, and keeping your back long – Your safest posture is to keep your spine in a neutral position. Straight back, open chest, and shoulders back and down.
  3. Once you have established a stable base, start to lift slowly and avoid quick, jerky movements – Engage your core muscles by drawing your navel towards your spine to support your lower back.
  4. Bring the load as close to your body as possible –  Minimize the force required to lift or carry the object.
  5. Slowly begin to straighten your legs – Remember that your leg muscles are stronger than your back so be sure to generate force with your lower body.
  6. Avoid twisting or turning at the waist while carrying something heavy – If you do need to change direction use your feet rather than rotating through your spine.

Other Strategies to Keep You Pain-Free with Gardening & Yard work this Summer:

Ease into gardening. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend working in the garden just as you would with any sport or activity that you haven’t practiced in several months. Start with 20-30 minutes of gardening and then slowly increase from there. Don’t rush to finish all your yardwork on the weekend.

Take frequent breaks and change positions frequently (every 10-15 minutes). Have a rest or alternate between different gardening tasks.  Prolonged bending or awkward postures can fatigue lower back muscles and lead to back injuries.

Remember to get close to your yard work; kneel to plant and weed. You could try using a special gardening mat or use kneepads. If you have knee or hip pain avoid putting pressure on these areas by sitting on an upside down bucket or gardening bench. Consider using specialized gardening tools to avoid prolonged reaching.

Elevate your flower beds and containers so you can tend to them at a comfortable height.Raised garden beds reduce the amount of reaching, bending, and twisting required which can all be contributors to aches and pains. Another option would be to plant a vertical garden or plant in pots.

Despite your best intentions you may still end up feeling achy after a weekend in the garden. If you wake up sore and stiff from doing yard work, check in with your physiotherapist. After an assessment, they may suggest pain relieving modalities such as electrotherapies, dry needling and manual therapy to reduce your discomfort. They can also suggest an individualized stretching and strengthening routine to complement your yardwork activities.

To address any gardening aches and pains you may have, schedule your assessment with Innovation Physical Therapy today!

Innovation Physical Therapy

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