Many people, like myself, find gardening to be very peaceful and zen-like. You are outside, enjoying the sounds, smells and working on growing things to improve your health and well-being. However, it can be hard work.
Before gardening perform these stretches:
These can all be done during or after gardening. Any exercise or back stretch should be done slowly and without pain; if it hurts don’t do it! Never force yourself into a position.
1. Two warm-up exercises – lay on your back on the floor or on a bed. In the first, pull your knees, together, to your chest. Keep your ankles together, and lower both knees gently to one side, touching the floor if possible, then the other. This massages the muscles on either side of the spine and gently moves the joints in the lower back.
2. A variation on this exercise is to lie on your back, knees to chest, and gently move each knee toward the shoulder on the same side, then toward the opposite shoulder. Repeat for each knee.
3. The “seventh-inning stretch” to warm up: do three to six back bends, slowly, with no discomfort. This extends the spine, which is the opposite of forward bending (or flexion). You can place your palms near the base of the spine to ensure that you’re not bending back too far.
Follow the tips below to get through gardening with as much produce and ease as possible.
- Preparation is key! Gardening works a lot of muscles and joints. You are often out there for long periods of time. It even involves maintaining odd positions, bending forward and heavy lifting at times. Strong core muscles and flexibility are important for preventing injuries from the long hours in the garden. Try to be more active in the weeks prior to starting gardening. So NOW! Lol… I am starting to plan out my garden and strengthening my hips and legs in preparation!
- Pay attention to your lifting and bending. Remember the scene in Legally Blonde where they talk about the “Lean and Snap”… yeah, do something like that in your garden. When lifting: keep objects close to your body, maintain a neutral spine when working (don’t tuck your chin or arch your back), try to kneel on one knee at a time and alternate, switch activities to reduce being in the same position for long periods of time.
- Use the right tools. With the right tools you can ease your burden…. if you have kids make them do it! Wheel barrows make heavy lifting and moving easier. Raised beds help with bending over and alleviate knee pain. Garden stools and benches can be used to sit on when you are doing your weeding or picking.
- Don’t do too much as once! Know your own bodies limitations. Break up the work. Go out and work on the garden for a period of time and return later. Personally, I like to go out when my dog needs let out, work for about 15 minutes and then go back inside. I just repeat that throughout the day.
- Take a minute to connect with nature. Gardening can be relaxing. It gets our bodies moving and helps relieve stress. When we spend time in the garden we are more likely to slow down, enjoy the smaller things in life and forget out daily worries.
After Gardening / Back Pain Remedies
Despite your efforts and best intentions, you may end up with some low back pain. Here are various methods to alleviate pain:
1. Visit your chiropractor! I get a lot of patients in on Monday’s telling me about how much yardwork they did or gardening! Trust me, your not alone.
2. Hot or cold compresses can alleviate pain. Either is fine, though cold is preferred—at least initially—if there’s swelling. Otherwise, the choice boils down to patient preference. If you are going to use heat NEVER use it for longer than 15 minutes. I know it feels good but too much heat will just cause swelling in the area.
3. Stretch. Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended. Bend at the hips and try to touch your toes. This opens up the joints in the spine and alleviates pressure on the back. Lay on the floor on your back and bring both knees into your chest. Gently rock you knees up and down. Again, this opens up the joints in the spine but also massages the muscles of the low back.
4. Hydrate! Your joints are mostly made up of water. If it’s a hot day you could have been working outside and gotten dehydrated. When you feel thirsty your joints are already dehydrated.
I hope these tips help you get through gardening season with ease this year! I know some of my favorite times are when I am out in the garden enjoying nature. OR, when the kids are in the garden helping me, asking questions and learning how to grow their own healthy beautiful foods.