Springtime brings warmer weather, lush green landscapes, and blooming flowers; unfortunately, for many of our patients that also means lots of yard work, joint pain, and back pain. Gardening and yard work often involve repeated lifting, bending, kneeling, and laboring. After a long winter of taking it easy, the sudden increase in workload can be a huge shock to your system which leads to a rise in injury risk.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of injury. By following these simple steps, you can prevent months of pain and discomfort.
1. Stretch before and after going out. With all of the bending and lifting that come with gardening, it is important to stretch your quads, hip flexors, pecs, and traps. Those muscles do a lot of the work and tend to tighten after overuse.
2. Watch your form. “For hoeing, raking, and leaf blowing, let you power come from your legs instead of your arms,” says physical therapist, Jamie Ligon. “Oftentimes, people make their arms do all of the work when simply shifting back and forth on your legs can keep you from overextending your arms and hurting your shoulders, wrists, and neck.” Also, when lifting, remember to breathe! Exhale as you tighten your tummy to engage your core muscles. “It is vitally important to STABILIZE your trunk before you mobilize your limbs with pushing, pulling, lifting, and lowering objects.”
3. Take a break. It is easy to start a project and not want to break until the job is done; however, that is when you are most vulnerable for injuries. Every 30 minutes, take a water break and check in with your body. Is your heartrate normal? Do you have any extra tension, pain or tingling in your muscles? Scan your body for signs of fatigue before resuming activity. If your vital signs seem off, take a break inside before returning to your project.
4. Gear up. Sometimes preventing injuries is all about having the right gear. Make sure you are wearing supportive shoes that cover your toes and if you are planning on kneeling or lifting, consider additional gear like knee pads, a back brace, or wrist brace. Also, don’t forget about sunscreen!
5. Rest and replenish. Gardening might not feel like exercise but in reality, most people burn anywhere from 200-600 calories an hour when they are working outdoors. Make sure you take some time to rest after your project is done. Apply ice to any muscles or joints that are in pain. Also, consider a high protein snack to replenish lost calories. Don’t forget to drink lots of water!
Follow these steps to avoid gardening injuries. If you have suffered from a yard work injury, contact our office as soon as possible. By treating the pain early, we can help calm the problem before it gets worse.
Remember, it can take several days for muscle soreness and joint pain to pop up after overexerting yourself. If you find that you are in pain several days after your workout, it could still be from a gardening injury. Come in and let us help you get back to the projects you enjoy!
-Written by Hope Ealey