With the summer gone and the nights drawing in, the gardening season hopefully draws to a rewarding end, keen gardeners will be desperate to get in the garden at any sign of a dry day to do their maintenance chores and look forward to such tasks as the Winter digging. With this mind we offer guidance on how to care for your back and joints when gardening.
Garden maintenance can cause back trouble for those who prioritise their flowers, plants and vegetables over their own health. Avoiding back and joint pain is often the last thing that comes to mind when gardeners reach for their tools and as we approach the big garden ‘spring clean’ which can involve a strenuous overhaul including digging, planting and moving pots etc it is important to take steps to minimise the chance of becoming injured.
British Osteopathic Association member Paul Ashburner comments: “Gardening is a physical activity and like any other exercise requires your muscles to be warmed up before you start, and stretched afterwards. A hot bath afterward can help prevent muscle stiffness the following day.”
Try to pace yourself, for example those who view a dry and sunny weekend as a chance to “blitz” the garden can often end up with an injury. It is safer to chip away at the jobs for one hour a few times a week, if possible, than to think your body will cope with two full days of digging, weeding and heavy lifting. If you have limited time try to vary your activity in the garden, avoiding long stints of digging or bending. Allow your muscles time to rest by limiting each activity to half an hour before having a break or moving to a different task.
Incorrect lifting is the biggest cause of back injuries in the garden - always lift with bent knees and keep your back straight or only very slightly bent, do not stoop. Use a lifting aid or ask a friend for help moving heavy pots. For other loads, make two to three trips with small amounts rather than risk a back injury that may have you out of action for weeks by lifting too much at once.
If you start feeling pain in your back while gardening, stop, the roses can wait! Pain is your back’s way of saying it is tired and therefore vulnerable to injury.
Should post-gardening pain not settle in three to four days, seek advice from an osteopath or your GP. If you already know you have a back problem, an osteopathic check up before embarking on the gardening could save you weeks of pain.
Paul's top tips for gardening without causing injury are as follows:
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