Do you LOVE your garden, but HATE your aches and pains after working in it? Do you LOVE getting your hands dirty but HATE how your body feels after? Do you LOVE the feeling of home grown food but HATE how you have back pain from a day in the garden?
As we move further in spring, we can all collectively turn our attention to happier outdoor pursuits – like gardening! If you’re anything like me, you love to garden and enjoy the magic of sun on your skin, hands in the dirt, and then at some point, Flowers, Herbs and Food!
Whether it’s planting flowers for the bees, herbs for your vitality, or fruits and vegetables for your table, gardening is a Wisconsin pastime beloved by many – but it’s not without its challenges!
Have you ever found yourself coming in from a long, hard day in the yard only to discover that you’re actually not feeling as young as you once were?
Maybe that pesky low back tightened up, you have numbness or prickly feelings in your feet, back or hips or maybe your knees swelled up from all that kneeling.
You spend time, energy and money building your garden – you want to reap the benefits of homegrown food, beautiful flowers and tasty herbs. Yet you don’t want to suffer with aches and pains due to your passion for gardening.
You need not worry as there is good news.
Physical Therapy has been proven to be TREMENDOUSLY effective for helping alleviate some of the more troublesome “aging” symptoms like low back pain, hip pain, and knee pain.
Our team of expert therapists in particular have a wide range of tools in their toolbox. You’re in the very best of hands here!
So You Love To Garden…
Me too! But sometimes, gardening can cause physical pain equal to, if not surpassing, the mental joy of the experience, and it can really put a damper on our spirits!
How Gardening Affects Your Body
Gardening involves many repetitive activities such as bending, kneeling, digging, reaching, lifting and carrying plants and soil. Bending and lifting can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain, and kneeling for long periods can cause knee pain.
Most people think that as you age, you might lose the ability to perform repetitive activities for long periods of time – but let’s bust that myth right away! Slowing down or not being able to do activities like gardening is NOT due to your age (and that’s great news!) These problems of aches & pains are usually due to being more sedentary over winter & stiffening up & getting a bit weaker due to not moving as much. Then spring arrives and we try to be active again and our bodies say – yikes! I need some help, let’s go to physical therapy! Because that’s what we specialize in, giving your body its well deserved tune up so you can keep gardening and doing the things you love without having to worry about slowing down.
Tips for Managing Pain While Gardening
Dr. Megan is here today with a few tips and tricks for helping you have the best experience possible while in the garden and afterwards.
Move to the level of the gardening job
Gardening often requires working at the ground level. While it is tempting to bend over, it is important to move to the level of your task. You can try an upright kneel, a one legged kneel, alternate leg kneeling, and even using a small stool to sit by the garden while you work. (That last one’s my favorite – it’s a game changer!) As we are working, we can forget how long we’ve been in one position. Be cognizant of your posture as you work, but also, make sure you’re switching it up from time to time.
Take Breaks When You Garden
Sure, it might feel like you have a mountain of brush to clear out, but that doesn’t mean you have to clear ALL of it right this very instant. Give yourself plenty of breaks! Take time to stretch, breathe, drink some water, or reapply sunscreen if that’s relevant to you, and don’t trick yourself into thinking you have to spend the entire day in the yard or garden. Your tasks waited this long for you; it’s ok to let them wait a few more days if you get started and realize you need to work at a slower pace.
Watch you posture - NO Hunching
It can be tempting when working in the garden to take on the shape of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and curl those shoulders in towards your task, but that is a recipe for discomfort. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders back, and if you have to lean forward, hinge from the hips to do so. This requires more core engagement, but trust me, it’s worlds better for the whole of your body than hunching or slumping over your project.
Dehydration can make you susceptible to the effects of heat and can cause muscle pain and cramping. Bring plenty of water with you when you garden, and keep track of how much you drink while you are out there. When possible, work in the shade to minimize water loss through sweating.
Tips for Avoiding Pain while Gardening
Stretch Before You Garden
Following a stretching routine before you garden is one way to make your muscles more resilient and reduce the risk of injury. In physical therapy, your therapist might recommend specific stretches.
Vary Your Garden Routine
If you have many tasks to perform during each gardening session, switch from one to another frequently. Different gardening activities often rely on different muscles and muscle groups, so switching gives your muscles time to recover.
Use Specialized Gardening Tools
You can prevent back pain while gardening by using specialist tools. They are designed to ease the strain on your back and joints.
Wheelbarrows are designed to make loading and unloading garden waste much easier, and enable you to transport your hanging baskets and plant pots more safely.
Long-handled tools can make weeding, trimming, and picking up garden waste much easier on your back, avoiding the need to stretch or bend over repeatedly.
Many people now use garden kneelers, often designed with special handles to assist you when getting up and down. Some of them even convert into low stools as well which eliminates the need to crouch or bend down.
Stretch When You Finish Gardening
Take a few minutes to cool down with some light stretches after you finish gardening. Stretching helps make your muscles and joints more flexible and less prone to injury.
Overcoming Pain With Physical Therapy from Balance Within Integrative Physical Therapy
2 peas in a pod are great when they are home-grown peas from your garden. Back pain and gardening do not need to be 2 peas in a pod. It is not natural to experience more aches and pains or limitations in doing things as you get older; when we listen to our bodies when these things start to happen and we get help with bringing the mechanics of our body back in balance, we can feel great at all ages! With the right combination of the best physical therapy from Balance Within Integrative Physical Therapy, food intake, and exercise, you can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle, including gardening and other outdoor hobbies this year and for many years (and likely many decades) to come.
If you have gardening pain that does not go away or is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, call Balance Within Integrative Physical Therapy at (262) 264 8701 to talk with one of our back experts from the comfort of your own home – we’ll help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and let you know what can be done naturally to get you feeling better.
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