Have you ever gone ten rounds with a rhododendron, or wrestled with a truckload of bark mulch? Winter has taken its toll on your yard and now the warm weather of spring is prompting you, and all your fellow green thumbs, to get outdoors and tackle your list of things to do. Before you start slinging weeds or edging the grass, there are a few things you should consider.

The majority of us do not think of gardening as being a physically demanding activity. Oh contrare! With activities ranging from lifting an 80 pound wheelbarrow full of dirt to pulling a never ending supply of weeds from the garden, yard work can impose a tremendous amount of stress on your body. Gardening commonly involves the use of repetitive motions or awkward positions, which can result in injuries such as: sprains, strains, muscle spasms, etc.. As you can see, gardening can put any “weekend warrior” on the disabled list.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

In the beginning of the season there is so much to do: prune the trees, thatch the lawn, till the garden, pull the weeds, the list goes on. The correct way to attack your list of things to do is by breaking it down into smaller components. Rather than sticking with one job until it is done, switch between jobs every 20 – 30 minutes. This helps to minimize the possibility of injury by constantly changing the structures of the body which are in use. For instance, if you have spent the last 20 minutes kneeling on the ground pulling weeds, then spend the next 20 minutes doing an activity that involves standing or walking.

Another word to the wise, “pace” yourself. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” for a reason. True, your garden probably is not as big as Rome, but there were a lot of Romans in those days to help out. You would be surprised how quickly your yard will come around when you spend no more than one hour per day working at it. Plus, your spine will thank you for it. Remember, moderation is the key.

TIPS TO AVOID INJURY IN THE GARDEN:

1. Take adequate time to warm up

Go for a 10 to 15 minute walk around the block.

Perform a few simple low back stretching exercises

Stretch in the various positions you will be working with in the yard ie. side bending, hip rotation, back extension, quadricep & hamstring stretches - warm up your shoulders (small to large circular motions with the arm extended)

2. Pace yourself – “Slow but steady wins the race!”

Never spend more than a couple of hours at a time working on the yard

In the beginning of the season, your body is unconditioned. So, start off slowly

Spend no more than a half an hour or so performing a few of the easier tasks. As the season progresses and your body strengthens, work your way up to longer durations and the more difficult jobs

3. Vary your tasks: 20 to 30 minutes per task

Switch to a task that incorporates different positions and movements

Switch to a task that incorporates different positions and movements

4. Plan for comfort by using tools that minimize strain on your body

Use knee pads or a short stool when working close to the ground

Kneel rather than bend to perform tasks that are low to the ground

Use long handled tools to avoid slouching or slumping forward & try to keep your back relatively straight

Switch hands frequently when using tools (ie. rake, shovel, etc.) to avoid repetitive strain to one side of the body

Keep overhead tasks to a maximum of 5 minutes

When picking up material exercise proper lifting technique: keep your back straight, bend with your knees, and carry the load close to your body

5. If a task seems to be too big, it probably is

Save your own body and hire a professional. They have the correct tools and experience to get the job done safely and effectively.

If you are having problems, and these tips are not helping, please call your Comox Chiropractor Dr. Houlgrave to schedule an appointment. Dr. Houlgrave can help to diagnose your problem, recommend an appropriate course of treatment, and get you back in your garden.

VIDEO TIPS – STRETCHING FOR GARDENERS:

Part I – Stretching the Upper Body (Rotator cuff, chest, shoulder & triceps)