Gardening is a popular activity for a number of reasons: It allows you to spend long periods of time outside, it provides a great sense of accomplishment, and perhaps best of all, it doubles as an adequate form of exercise. It’s no wonder many dedicated gardeners spend countless hours perfecting their garden during these warmer months of the year.
Unfortunately, the last part also means that as harmless as it seems, gardening also has the potential to cause pain and injury since it’s a demanding physical task. While it’s necessary in order to get the job done, all the stretching, bending and twisting that comes with being a productive gardener puts multiple areas of the body at risk for pain, especially the knees and back.
The knees are a prime target for aches and pains as a result of all the bending and kneeling, and the back is also vulnerable when certain activities like lifting are performed incorrectly or when bad posture is used. In addition, gardening requires many of the same motions to be repeated over long periods of time, which can be particularly stressful to a number of muscle groups.
If you’re a gardener that looks forward to this time of year but would rather not deal with any nagging pains as a result, we recommend the following tips for you to keep in mind while gardening:
- Try to only use pruners, shovels rakes and other gardening tools that are ergonomically designed with cushioned grips, and avoid tool shortcuts
- Use a foam or gel kneel pad and try alternate kneeling on each knee
- Vary your gardening tasks throughout each session so as not to keep repeating the same one for too long, or break it up into smaller tasks
- When you sit for jobs at ground level, don’t sit cross-legged; flex your body forward and maintain good posture, or use a small chair or stool
- If possible, raise your beds and container platforms to allow you to tend to them at close-to-standing height, which will eliminate bending over
- Stretch before and after gardening, when muscles are in the cool-down phase, and ice any sore areas before going to bed
- Strengthening exercises as provided by a physical therapist can also help prevent the knees and back from experiencing stresses and strains
At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, we encourage you to get out there and garden as much as you like, but remind you that injuries can occur in the garden just as easily as any court or field. For more information or to schedule an appointment at either of our two locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC, call 704-471-0001.