So you love to garden, but your back doesn’t. When you love getting your hands dirty and working the earth, aches and pains can sometimes feel unavoidable. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you love to garden and you want a solution for the aches and pains that so frequently accompany it, here are a few tips to help you out.
Understand Common Gardening Injuries
Before you can start preventing gardening aches and pains, it’s important to understand what the most common types of gardening injuries entail and why they happen. There are two main types of gardening injuries: muscle strains and muscle sprains.
Muscle Strains – Strained muscles are incredibly common in gardeners. A muscle strain involves over-stretching or tearing a muscle or tendon. This type of gardening injury is most commonly seen in the lower back, neck, and shoulders.
Muscle Sprains – Sprains are incredible common both in gardening and everywhere else. A sprain, unlike a strain, involves the stretching or tearing of ligaments instead of tendons. This type of gardening injury is most common in the ankles, but it can happen in just about any joint in your body. You can even sprain your knee!
So why do these types of injury happen? The most common cause is a strain from activities associated with gardening. When you garden, you’re required to lift heavy objects like bags of dirt or fertilizer, you’re hunched over small plants under the hot sun, and kneeling to get detail work done. Compound that with the fact that almost 50% of working Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives and you’ve got a recipe for gardening disaster. But how can you prevent gardening aches and pains from ruining your passion?
Start with a Warmup Routine
When you exercise, it’s important to begin your workout with a short warmup routine. The purpose of this short routine is to make sure your muscles and joints are prepared to handle the more high-intensity exercise that you’re about to perform. While gardening isn’t necessarily the same as a HIIT workout, it’s still important to warm up your muscles and joints to reduce the likelihood of a strain or sprain. Not sure what kind of warmup moves you should be doing? Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- Go for a 10-minute walk.
- Stretch your calves.
- Perform 30 seconds of shoulder rolls (once forward, once backward).
- Complete a set of 20 toe touches.
- Stretch your hamstrings.
- Perform one minute of “cat-cow” stretches.
- Rotate your wrists for 30 seconds in each direction.
- Massage your hands and fingers.
While you don’t have to perform all of these warmup activities, it’s a good idea to do at least a few short exercises that concentrate on the area where you feel the most pain when you garden. For example, if you notice that you’re experiencing the most pain in your lower back, your warmup exercises should focus on that area. Simple stretching techniques like cat-cow and tow touches can help stretch out your back and warm up those muscles.
Use the Right Equipment
If you had to cut down a tree, you wouldn’t go about it with a butter knife. The same principle applies to gardening. If you want to enjoy gardening without aches and pains, you need to use the right equipment! Here are a few common aches and pains associated with gardening and the equipment that could help you avoid them.
Sore Feet – Almost 87% of people experience foot pain at some point in their lives. If this is one of your chief complaints while gardening, it’s time for new shoes. Alternatively, you could bring your potted plants up to a table and sit to prune them instead of standing.
Lower Back Pain – Lower back pain is one of the most common gardening pains in the world. While sitting in a chair or standing may help here, much of your gardening activities likely need to take place on the ground. Consider investing in more potted plants so you’re not constantly hunching over!
Shoulder Pain – If your shoulders are bothering you, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a wheelbarrow to help you lift heavy equipment or heavy bags of fertilizer and soil. This can also help alleviate symptoms of lower back pain.
Knee Aches – Your knees are some of the most important joints in your body. If you’re constantly kneeling on the hard ground though, you’re never going to get relief. Instead of suffering, invest in a pair of knee pads to wear while you garden. Protect those knees!
While taking supplements like type II collagen can help with some joint pain, it’s important to take more precautions than a simple supplement to alleviate your gardening aches and pains. When in doubt, make sure you’re warming up, using the right equipment, and taking steps to understand exactly what’s causing your pain. Happy gardening!