Avoiding Joint and Back Pain when Gardening
Gardening can be a great form of exercise and stress relief, but it can also take a toll on your back and joints over an extended period of time if you aren’t careful. The repeated motions involved in gardening can lead to joint inflammation, back strain, and even arthritis. Here are some ways to help protect your joints and back while you are gardening this spring and summer.
Vary Your Tasks
Just as how you need to vary your exercises when working out at the gym, you need to vary the work that you do in the garden over the course of an afternoon. If, for example, you’ve been weeding for an hour, take a break from that and start another activity that works different muscles—raking, for example.
Use the Right Tools
When it comes to protecting your back and joints while gardening, don’t try to extend your gardening tools beyond their intended uses. If you’re looking to till your soil, for example, reach for a tiller made for that purpose. Using a shovel or pick axe to till could cause undue stress to your back and joints because of the extra work you have to do to get the results you’re looking for. In addition, many gardening tools today are made to put less stress on your joints during use; so when you are investing in new gardening tools, look for the ones that were made with an ergonomic design in mind. Garden stools can also be helpful for those not wanting to kneel or squat for long periods.
Lift with Caution
When lifting heavy objects, always enlist the help of a friend when necessary. Otherwise, be sure to make use of lifting assists such as a wheelbarrow or wagon. It’s also a good idea to plan for lighter loads, such as by purchasing two smaller bags of soil rather than one large bag. When lifting, also be sure to lift with your legs and not your back.
Practice Safe Movements
There are several movements you want to avoid when gardening. For example, when shoveling, it is best to avoid twisting your back to toss dirt over your shoulder and to instead work with the shovel always in front of you. You should also avoid using only fingers to lift objects and remaining in the same position for too long.
Use Kneeling Pads
Kneeling pads are inexpensive and great for reducing the stress that you put on your knees when weeding and planting for extended periods of time. You’ll find kneeling pads in foam and gel varieties, and keeping them with the rest of your gardening supplies means that you’ll use them often. Knee pads are another great similar options.
Ask for Help
The most important thing to remember when it comes to gardening and your health is that you should never extend yourself beyond your own capabilities. Ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to help you with the more arduous tasks, or consider hiring a professional. It’s always better to exercise more caution than is necessary rather than not enough.
Stretching after working your muscles for so long is important to helping prevent future injury. And if you happen to feel especially sore in one area after gardening, apply ice to the affected area to help prevent swelling.