Spring Gardening and Injury Prevention

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It’s finally spring and many of you will be enjoying the weather while tending your gardens. Gardening should be a joy, not a chore. As you work to have gorgeous spring blooms and ripe fruits and veggies never try to complete more than you can comfortably manage. You can potentially risk injury by missing the signals your body is sending you; like an ache in the elbow or strain in the back.

Here are some tips for staying healthy while gardening

  • Spread the work out over several days or weeks.
  • Alternate tasks.
  • Start slowly and take frequent breaks.
  • Change position frequently.
  • Don’t work until you wilt.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink more water than you think you need.
  • Stand up and stretch frequently.

Anyone who gardens will agree that it can be extremely hard work unless you limit yourself to a few potted plants on the deck. There are both traumatic and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) that can interrupt your gardening fun if you aren’t careful.

Repetitive Strain Injury Prevention

The most important rule in repetitive strain injury (RSI) prevention is to never work through pain. If your shoulder aches even before you start your pruning job, you should either postpone the task until your shoulder is better or ask for help.

RSI is a serious disorder for which there is no cure. Listen to your body. Stop doing what hurts. Keep your body conditioned, practice healthy habits, and use the right tools so you can be a senior gardener! It’s better to change your approach now and still be able to dig at 80, right?
Even if you are used to a regular program of exercise, gardening requires strength and flexibility.

  • Back. For low back strength and flexibility, work on strengthening core muscles, especially all of the abdominals.
  • Arms and shoulders. Activities in the garden require lifting, reaching overhead, and digging with a trowel that can result in strain injuries if muscles are weak. To prevent this, strengthen them and increase your flexibility by working on your biceps, triceps, chest, rotator cuff and forearm muscles.
  • Hand. The hands are used extensively in gardening. Unfortunately, hand strengthening exercises to increase grip strength consist of gripping and squeezing.
  • Knees. Your knees are stressed when you squat or push a cart uphill. Strengthening and lengthening the quadriceps is important.