Gardening Tips

Jo-Ann Scott, Physiotherapist Optimum Wellness Centres

After a long and very cold winter, Spring is just around the corner – or so we hope!! It will soon be time to get out and tend to your gardens and yards. How wonderful will it be to finally be outside working again?
Remember though, you will be doing a lot of tasks that you haven’t done in about a year so your body may suffer, especially if you do too much too soon. Lifting and carrying, bending over or shovelling can cause back pain – but they don’t have to!!!
Here are some quick tips to help you enjoy your garden again without suffering afterwards.

  • Do a light warm up before you tackle the garden. Remember that gardening is still work to your body. You will be asking your body to get into positions that it is not used to, as well as exerting yourself though lifting, carrying and shovelling.    A light warm up allows the blood to flow to the muscles and “loosens them up”.
  • A warm up can be anything, arm raises, back bends, stretching – it is just important to get your blood moving and “warn” the muscles that you are going to expect them to do their job!
  • Try not to stay in a stationary position. If you are kneeling down weeding, reverse the position every 15-20 minutes. Staying in the same position puts a continuous strain on the soft tissues and may prevent the blood flow that these structures need to work efficiently.
  • Be aware of your body mechanics. Kneel rather than stoop to plant flowers or seeds; stooping over for a long period can put excess strain on your back.
  • When you are lifting and carrying things around the yard, keep the object against your belly button. This will ensure that in almost all instances, you will have to use your legs to lift and lower as well as move your feet rather than twisting your back to set the object down.
  • Never throw over your shoulder. This forces the spine to be twisted as you are loading it and places you at risk of injury.
  • Stay as upright as possible when shovelling or raking. Grip the shovel or rake at least 12 inches apart. This increases your leverage AND will prevent you from stooping over to shovel.
  • Always push if you can.   Pushing puts far less strain on the spine than lifting.

We hope you stay healthy this Spring and look forward to seeing all the lovely gardens around Calgary. Should you experience and discomfort or injury, the staff at Optimum Wellness Centres are always available to answer your questions or to treat those gardening Aches and Pains.