Gardening habits that can lead to body pain.
1. Lower back pain as a result of raking, shovelling, lifting and reaching forward during pruning and weeding.
2. Neck and shoulder pain (nerve root irritation) resulting from pulling the starting cord of a mower, pruning or hunching over in the garden.
3. Wrist stiffness resulting from weeding, using pruning sheers.
4. Joint soreness from bending down weeding in the same pose for a prolonged period of time.
5. Finger soreness from gripping tools, secateurs, etc. Check this Bad Posture Habits to Watch Out For.
An Osteopath’s eight habits for highly effective & pain-free gardening.
1. Stretch before gardening to prepare your muscles for the tasks they are about to do. Ask your Osteopath now.
2. Change sides and activities when gardening. This brings about balance in the body, i.e. if you are raking, shovelling or using a mattock, use your left side then change to the right. Whatever you do on one side, do on the other.
3. Vary posture and stretch during your gardening session. This restores blood flow and prevents cramping or muscle spasm from static posture.
4. When bending or lifting, bend from the knees and hips. By not bending the hips and knees, you load the back too early, which can lead to muscle strain. Keep your back in its normal curve (neutral spine) and learn to bend from the hips and knees.
5. Drink water. This prevents the build up of lactic acid (which causes pain) in the muscles and replaces fluids that are lost due to sweating.
6. Stretch straight after you have finished gardening. This unwinds all the awkward movements you have performed in the garden and restores the body’s balance. It is critical that you do this as soon as you have finished, not when you have cooled down, as your muscles are still warm and flexible. If you allow them to cool down before you have stretched they will cool down in a distorted state – leading to aches and pain.
7. Pace yourself and take breaks. Allow time for the tasks at hand. Most injuries occur when gardeners, who are not in peak condition “rip and tear” into a project, without warming up. Ensure you break, hydrate and stretch during long stints in the garden.
8. Take a positive mental attitude into the garden. Approach gardening as you would a session in the gym. Think of the good that you are doing your body whilst exercising in the garden.
9. Activate the deep stabiliser muscles of your lower back whilst working in your garden. This helps protect your spinal joints and vulnerable tissues – ask your Osteopath now.
Adapted by, Deborah Joy Calleja, Osteopath, The Medical Sanctuary