For some reason, each spring, I end up with sore muscles—especially the front of my thighs. It comes from the garden, I’m sure. This year, I’m determined to start my gardening season pain free. I’d like for you to do that too. So, here are some tips that I have learned that will help.
Stay in Shape Through the Winter
Don’t spend those snowy days idling in front of the television. Take the time to stretch all winter long. Remember, that it takes a muscle at least 30 seconds to respond to a stretch. So hold your position for at least that long without bouncing. Stretch slowly, hold longer and do fewer repetitions. Keeping to a regular stretching routine will maintain those muscles that will get worked as soon as you put spade to earth in the spring.
Don’t begin your gardening season as a “weekend warrior.” Begin with a small task and build up to the big ones a little each day. Going from a winter couch potato to planting 15 new shrubs in one weekend is asking for a back injury.
Take Frequent Breaks
If the only time you have to spend in the garden is on the weekend, then at least take frequent breaks while you work. And while you rest, stretch. Actually, stretching between tasks, and after the work is done, is more helpful than stretching only before beginning the project.
Keep Your Tools Close
Either keep your tools within arm’s reach or get up and go get them. Do not reach or twist farther than you should. Reaching too far and twisting will strain your back.
Use Correct Posture
When mowing, keep your arms close to your sides and walk with your mower. Do not push it way out in front of your body. When shoveling, place one hand close to the bowl of the shovel and resting on your forward, bent knee. Lift your load by pushing down on the end of the handle with the other hand. Straighten up and move your feet to turn. Do not twist your back. When using a wheelbarrow stand between the handles with one foot slightly forward. Bend your knees to lift, not your back. When pushing, keep your back erect.
Protect Your Back
Keeping your abdominal muscles and your upper body strong and stretched is your best defense against back injury. When lifting, keep a neutral spine, look up—not at the object you are lifting, bend at the hips and knees—not at the waist, keep your back straight, and with the object close to the body, get down to the proper level and lift with your legs. If you are carrying a heavy load and need to make a turn, turn your entire body, do not twist at the waist. And remember, if you think you might have trouble lifting something, you probably will. Get some help.
Use the Proper Tools
Sometimes we don’t want to fetch the proper tool from the shed, or we may not even have it. However, sometimes this can be a big mistake. If you already suffer with arthritis or a weak back, you may want to look into purchasing tools ergonomically designed to aid someone with your condition.
Sometimes, we do everything right and still end up with an injury. In that case, use ice on the area for 15-20 minutes, take an anti-inflammatory and rest. After a few days you can begin slowly with gentle stretches and seek the treatment of a massage therapist.
Photo by Пероша