Plant and rake without the ache

Plant and rake without the ache

Now that the weather is much more agreeable, we are all raking, lifting, digging, kneeling, and planting in our yards, which is very hard on our joints! Poor gardening techniques can lead to repetitive strain injuries, increase degenerative joint and disc problems, cause sprain and strain injuries to muscles throughout the body, and increase wear and tear to joints and muscles.

Let’s enjoy our gardens, and the gardening season, by keeping the following tips in mind:

Stretch out before you head out.

Take the time to prepare your body for activity, just like you would for any other type of workout. Always warm-up and cool down your muscles. Add a short walk and you’ll have a complete cardio and strength program.

Use good lifting technique.

Keep the load close to your body with your back straight (Remember how to find your neutral spine?). Bend your knees while picking up and putting down the load. Avoid twisting. Ask someone for help with heavy, awkward loads.

Use the right moves.

  • Alternate your tasks. Take turns between heavy chores such as digging and less physically demanding tasks such as planting.
  • Stand with one leg forward and one leg back when you rake. Raking can put significant strain on your back and arms. So take extra care with this activity.
  • Change hands often. Changing hands frequently when you rake, hoe or dig prevents muscle strain on one side of the body and will also strengthen muscles that may not get used as often.
  • Kneel or sit to plant and weed. Constant bending can put strain on your back, neck and leg muscles and joints. Use kneepads or a kneeling mat to minimize the amount of bending required, and to make kneeling and sitting more comfortable.
  • Change positions frequently. Make a point of changing position every 10 to 15 minutes. Move from kneeling to standing, from digging to planting. I always tell my patients that the body can adapt to anything, as long as it is for short periods of time.