How to Prevent Injuries and Pain while Gardening
Gardening has been categorised as a moderate intensity physical activity – something people should be getting 30+ minutes of most days of the week (Park and Shoemaker 2009). Although the categorisation of gardening as moderate intensity definitely depends on the tasks being performed and how vigorously they are being attempted – gardening is an activity that many enjoy and as a form of exercise it carries a host of health benefits and risks.
The above chart from a paper by Sin-Ae Park and Shoemaker (2009) points out clearly that lower back pain is the most common complaint after working in the garden – followed next by knee pain.
Gardening work often involves working in/on the earth - which is usually below our feet. To do this work we bend over, squat down or kneel down to get in position – so it makes sense that lower backs and knees cop a bit of a beating.
I spend a lot of time in my families’ garden and have a few tricks that have saved my back and knees.
1) If there is an easier way to do something – take the easy way.
Example: Instead of bending down to plant things at ground height – put your pots up on a bench so you don’t have to do the job in such an awkward position. Spending the effort it takes to lift these things up to a garden table – although it may seem like an extra step – is more convenient than stopping with a sore back.
2) Consider your flexibility – stretching really helps.
Example: Most people have heard the advice “Bend your knees, not your back” but if you are too stiff to easily reach that trowel, you will probably bend whatever it takes to reach it as quickly as possible. Regular stretching of the right muscles can fix this issue by making the advice “Bend your knees, not your back” easier/possible to follow.
3) A strong body is an injury resistant body
Example: Whether your endurance struggles after working for long periods or you have difficulty with shorter heavy jobs – these are both situations where your body is reaching its limits. You would find your limits in the garden less often if you trained regularly. A whole body strengthening program does wonders for injury prevention.
At Rebound Health we combine the disciplines of Exercise Physiology, Dietetics and Physiotherapy to effectively promote an active and empowering approach to health. Our core purpose is to inspire individuals in the pursuit of a healthier community. We do this to ensure that our clients receive the best care, achieve positive results that are goal orientated, and life happier lives!