Garden Safety Tips
Dr. Brenda Trudell

Gardening is a healthy activity that provides regular physical exercise and is a great stress reliever.  Many people find the tranquility of connecting with nature worth all the hard work it takes to create a beautiful space.  But in order to enjoy the fruits of your labor, it is important to take care of your body.  These garden safety tips are designed to keep you digging, raking and planting for a long time.

As with any physical activity, it is important to prepare your body.  To build up endurance, begin with walking, stair climbing, squats or some other exercises to strengthen your lower body one to two months before you get out in the garden. Your legs will appreciate it!

Once you are ready to get in the garden, make sure you stretch and warm up your muscles properly. A brisk walk around the yard will help get the blood flowing and give you a better stretch. Gardening uses almost all of the major muscle groups, so it’s a good idea to stretch your whole body.  Pay close attention to the areas you will using the most, and stretch in the motion that you will be working.  Meaning, if you want to stretch your shoulder because you will be doing a lot of overhead work, then do stretches where you are reaching up.  It doesn’t do much to bring your arm across your chest to stretch your shoulder if you won’t be doing much activity that way.

Avoid bending over repeatedly and stooping while doing yard work.  Try some knee pads or a small stool so you can be closer to the ground.  Protect your back by keeping your core muscles tight.  Visualize bringing your belly button in towards your spine and tightening the muscles around the buttocks.  Make sure to engage your core muscles when doing any lifting.  Lift by keeping your back straight and using your leg muscles.  NEVER bend over, twist and throw something heavy at the same time, as in shoveling and tossing dirt.  This is the most common way people injure their back when doing outside work.

Using long-handled tools that are ergonomically designed will give you leverage while you are working and help protect your back as well.  It is also important to switch hands or sides frequently.  Repetitive motions, especially ones in awkward positions, can restrict blood flow and lead to sprains and strains.  Doing too much on one side can also lead to serious spinal and muscle imbalances, and you may end up with spasms.  Keep everything balanced and even, and switch it up every ten minutes or so, to rest tired muscle groups.

Always make sure to stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of water BEFORE you get outside, and have a bottle of water with you.  When it’s very hot out, avoid gardening during the peak hours of sunlight.  High temps can increase dehydration and cause muscle cramping.

Even with all the preparations and precautions, you may find yourself with an injury.  If this is case, ice is usually the best thing for the first 72 hours.  Place the ice on the injured area for twenty minutes at a time.  Do not use heat during this time, as it can increase the amount of inflammation and slow healing.   A chiropractor will be able to evaluate you and determine how serious your injury is.  Chiropractic adjustments will realign your body and speed the healing process.  Many people report that their injuries heal more quickly and that they are less likely to re-injure themselves when they receive chiropractic adjustments.  If you have injured yourself working in the garden, or would like to discuss proper gardening techniques and injury prevention, call our office to schedule a visit.