Don't break your back bending over your begonias!
With warm weather right here, many are venturing out into the sunshine and enjoying their garden. Despite the hard work that is required to have a successful and thriving garden, millions of Americans find gardening relaxing and very rewarding. It is important to note that despite its therapeutic benefits, gardening is not a passive activity. In fact, a gardener uses the same exact muscles as golfer or a rower on a rowing crew team. Usually, the average gardener is ill equipped physically to take on the task of gardening.

Planting and caring for fruits, vegetables and flowers, is strenuous activity. Just as with any other type of activity, gardening puts you at risk for injury. In fact, in the spring and summer months, many patients report back injuries from gardening. The injuries are considered common and on the surface, appear to be minimal. In reality, the injuries are quite painful and take time to heal. The following outlines how common gardening injuries happen and how to prevent them.

Avoid Constantly Bending Over
When possible, kneel or sit instead of bending. Bending over for a prolonged period increases your chances of lower back injury exponentially. You can purchase kneepads or a small footstool to sit on, that will make it more bearable to get on the ground.

Keep On Moving
Gardening involves movement that puts the body out of alignment as it involves poor posture and repetitive motion. Every 10 minutes or so, shift your position, move over a foot or so, and shift your weight from one leg to the other. If you are raking or mowing, or digging, alternate between hands to balance the workload. Using the same hand repeatedly, for long periods of time, causes carpal tunnel syndrome.

Be wary of your posture
Gardening involves sitting, kneeling, bending, reaching, and twisting. While that 4 inch Begonia may only weight a few ounces, getting it into the ground is risky business. Sitting in a chair increases lower back pressure by 35%, as opposed to standing. When done once, sitting, reaching and twisting is a risky activity. When you are gardening, you repeat this activity many times over for several hours at a time. Each time, your back endures more pressure, and the limits of your muscles are tested. This repetitious activity combined with combined range of motion movements leads to injuries. The prolonged poor posture places unbalanced loads on the knees, shoulders, neck, and back muscles.

Carry Loads Smartly
Large bags of soil and mulch are awkward to lift. Just lifting them 6 inches into a wheel barrel is enough to cause a serious back injury. Even lifting a 10-pound bag of mulch can injure your back. As with the 4 inch Begonia, it is not the actual weight of the object, but rather the stance you are required to take while lifting it. A 10-pound bag of soil has no handles and is large and flat, which makes for a poor center of gravity. Lifting that 10-pound bag of soil is 50 times more likely to injure your back than if you were to lift a 10-pound bowling ball. Many times the garden is short on space and the gardener is unable to bend at the knee and remain upright while lifting. When you are lifting, keep the load close to your body. Always keep your spine in a neutral position, no matter how small the item. Finally, ask for help if the load is heavy.

Let the tools do all the work
Second to back injuries, are shoulder injuries caused by pulling weeds in the yard. That weed may appear small, but it has a large root system holding it in place. So many gardeners make the mistake of grabbing on to the weed and pulling with all of their might. Sometimes, the weed offers no resistance and simply flies out of the ground, which injures the shoulder, as it is overextended. More times than not, the weed does not budge and the gardener makes several attempts to yank it out, inflicting additional injury with every attempt. A better approach is to use gardening tools to uproot the plant, thereby eliminating the need to pull altogether.

As with any other physical activity, warm up first.
Starting off the activity right is the first step to a great gardening season. Your body needs to be physically ready to do the work. First, take a short walk for 5 – 10 minutes. Then, sit on the lawn and stretch your body to limber up. The benefits for a warm up are tremendous. It reduces the risk of injury and drastically reduces the minor aches and pains that you experience afterward.

Pace Yourself
You have months to accomplish your goals, so tale your time. Create a plan and schedule certain tasks for different days. If you attempt to weed, till, and seed on the same day, you will be injured. Make your first day very light and then assess your aches and pains the following day.
Another suggestion is to take frequent breaks. Get up, stretch and walk around, and grab some water. This will ensure that your muscles get a break and that you will notice any little aches, before they become big pains! It is recommended that you take a 15-minute break every hour.

Don’t ignore the pain
If you are injured while gardening, do not resume activities until the injury is completely healed. If you experience pain for more than 48 hours, and over the counter pain medication is not working, seek medical treatment. Chiropractors are a good place to start. Chiropractors are health professionals who combine their skill and expertise to heal the body and restore it to a healthy state. They are trained to address the types of injuries associated with gardening. Many times, chiropractic treatment puts the patient in a better state than they were prior to the injury.
These tips can ensure that you can enjoy your garden, without injuring yourself. If you are injured, the gardening season will come to abrupt end!


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