Fresh air, dirt and sunshine! I LOVE being outdoors working in my yard and garden this time of year!
Now I'll admit I don't particularly LOVE pulling weeds, but I do love how everything looks when I'm done!
As much as I enjoy it, gardening is hard work and can lead to a variety of aches and pains. And if you're in pain you're certainly not going to enjoy yourself or the bounty your garden will bring when both you and your garden are properly cared for!
So today, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips to help keep you gardening all summer long...without pain!
Keep reading for 9 of my best tips...if you have more tips to share leave a comment below! I'm always eager to learn more tricks to make gardening more enjoyable and fun!
1. Stay Close...To Your Pots and Plants!
I mean this literally!
Reaching too far away from your body to perform any task increases the amount of stress and on your body and makes your muscles work a lot harder and leads to more fatigue and more soreness. Even worse, it can lead to a back, neck or shoulder injury that could keep you from enjoying your garden for weeks or months!
So, instead of reaching to the back of your garden bed to pull those weeds or pick the ripest tomato on the vine, take a step or two closer and make things easier on your body. Don't try to lift that bag of potting soil stuffed away in the corner of the garage that is now behind all the things that got piled up in front of it all winter long. Take a few minutes to clear away a path so you can get in nice and close to lift it properly.
These are just a couple of examples, but hopefully you get the idea of "staying close" here.
Staying close to whatever gardening task you're working on seems pretty simple, right? Well, it is in theory, but you'd be surprised how many injuries happen with something as simple as reaching. So, put this into practice and you'll accomplish a lot more in your garden this year with a lot less pain.
2. Keep Your Back Straight
I know this can be a tough one to follow when gardening, but prolonged or repetitive bending is a major cause of neck or back pain and stiffness. In fact, most of the back pain I treat in my clinic is from repetitive stress and strain to the back muscles…NOT from an injury or trauma.
Your body can only endure so much before it reaches a “breaking point”.
So instead of bending, try squatting more often if you can! When you do have bend forward, focus on keeping your back straight and hinging more at your hips instead of rounding your back, and always tighten your abdominals to support and protect your back. When it's time to stand back up, squeeze your butt cheeks to return to standing instead of using your poor overworked back muscles. Your back muscles are simply not designed to support the weight of your trunk in these bent positions for extended time periods or when done repetitively.
Keep your back as straight as possible…your back will thank you!
3. Be Creative With Your Garden Beds
Depending on your space you could consider building some raised garden beds or planters so you don't have to bend over so much. Using a potting bench or table is a great strategy to keep you more upright and protect your back.
Hanging baskets, window planters, planter boxes on deck rails or fence planters are also great options to explore that can add a fun new element to your garden...that is also easier on your body!
4. Know Your Limits
We all have physical limitations based on a variety of factors including gender, age, fitness level, etc. Even the strongest man in the world has limits. Knowing and respecting YOUR limits will go a long way in keeping you safe and pain free.
There's no rule that says you HAVE TO lift that 40-pound bag of potting soil. Ask for help, divide the soil into more manageable amounts or use a wagon or wheelbarrow, but don’t risk your safety by lifting more than you can safely lift by yourself.
There's no rule that says you HAVE TO spend 4 hours bending over or on your knees pulling weeds. Break it up into smaller sections. Step away and do something different, then go back to your weeding.
You get to make up your own rules, but be smart about it by keeping your limits in mind!
5. Lift With Your Legs...Not Your Back
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, most people have. Unfortunately, not everyone practices it!
If you’re not squatting down and lifting with your legs, your only other option to is to bend over and use your back muscles to lift. Again, your back muscles are not designed for this, but your powerful leg muscles are…so be mindful and use those strong legs for lifting!
6. Take Frequent Breaks
Depending on what needs to be done, some days I can spend 2-3 hours (or more) in my yard/garden. Taking frequent breaks to stretch and hydrate is important to keep your energy levels up and prevent pain.
7. Change Positions Often
Gardening can be done in a variety of positions from standing, squatting, hinging at the hips like we discussed, kneeling, sitting on the ground or using a bucket as a stool. So switch it up occasionally!
If you’ve been kneeling for a while, do something in standing for a bit, then go back to kneeling if you need to. Avoiding any one position for too long will help minimize stress to any one part of your body and can help prevent pain and stiffness at the end of the day.
8. Use The Right Tools
Think knee pads, buckets, wagons, wheelbarrows, long handed tools or even another human helper! Finding and using the right tools for the job means less work for you in the end, which of course means you can avoid any unnecessary aches and pains.
9. Build Up Slowly
This is important, especially in the early part of the season when your body isn't used to the movements and positions gardening requires. Rome wasn’t built in a day…and you probably won’t have your garden and yard in tip top shape in a day either!
So, start with smaller tasks and work up to more demanding or longer tasks as your body gets more accustomed to the “new” activity. It’s normal to expect some soreness when you start a new activity or do something you haven’t done in a while, just don’t overdo it right out of the gate!
I hope you found a few tips here that will be useful to help keep you gardening all summer long...without pain!
While my goal here is to help you prevent pain...it's normal to experience pain from time to time, no matter how careful you are.
Thankfully, most of the time your body does what it's supposed to do and HEALS!
If we don’t take of those lingering aches and pains, it usually just gets worse in time and can start to impact our health in other ways.
If you have pain that lasts for more than a few weeks, doesn't improve, or gets worse, it may be time to get professional help, so you can get back to the activities you love sooner rather than later.
Here's How To Get Our Help
If you’re ready to get help from a physical therapy specialist, just give us a call at 503-744-0046 to schedule or click the link below to fill out a short form and we’ll call you to arrange a time for your Initial Evaluation & Treatment Session.
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If you’re still a little unsure if physical therapy is the right solution for your pain or problem, you may prefer to start with a FREE In-Person Discovery Visit. This gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have and discover:
If you would like to take advantage of one of our FREE Discovery Visits, simply click the link below to complete a quick and easy form and we’ll be in touch to arrange a time for your visit.
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There is no obligation! After your consultation if you decide you want to work with us, great! We can't wait to see your transformation unfold! If not, we will try to guide you to the right person to help you.
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Helping active adults FINALLY get rid of their aches, pains and injuries, so they can keep moving, stay active and improve their health naturally - without pain medication, injections or surgery.
Oregon City, OR
Dr. Julie Krueger