Written by Chelsy Martin, Registered Physiotherapist
Gardening is a great way to get moving and be physically active, especially while gyms and indoor recreational facilities remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, gardening can often require awkward positions, repetitive movements, and heavy lifting. For this reason, our team at Moveo wanted to provide some advice and easy tips to avoid injury and assist you while working outside on your gardens.
- Incorporate a warm-up: as with any type of physical activity, it is important to first warm up. Warming up increases blood flow to our muscles and helps the body prepare for the upcoming activity. Before gardening, a warm-up could simply involve a 5-10-minute brisk walk around the block and/or performing dynamic stretching (i.e. active and movement-based stretches).
- Use proper equipment: using proper equipment can limit the strain placed on the body and help avoid poor positioning. Use a wheelbarrow to make transporting heavy soil or objects much easier. A bench or stool can be used to limit prolonged squatting or kneeling (a position often difficult on the knees and low back). If kneeling is required, don’t forget to use knee pads. Additionally, always use appropriate safety equipment and read manufacture instructions on how to use tools safely.
- Avoid prolonged bending and maximize positioning: our joints like to move, and don’t enjoy staying in one position for too long. For this reason, remember to alternate between tasks throughout the day to encourage movement and limit prolonged positions. When possible, position yourself as close to the task at hand to avoid excessive reaching or twisting. Be mindful of your posture while working and try to sit or stand upright with your shoulders back.
- Use a proper lifting technique: when lifting an object, we want to place the body in a mechanical advantage. This means using proper form to make the activity easier and less strenuous. When lifting an object, it is important to lift with your legs while keeping your back in a neutral position. Keep the object close to the body (i.e. not holding the object at arm’s length) to reduce the effort needed and limit strain on the shoulders and back.
- Pace yourself: remember to pace yourself! Incorporate breaks throughout the day and set realistic expectations of how long the work will take to get done safety. It is better to spread the work out over a few days rather than completely it all at once. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help! Perhaps a family member can assist you, or a professional can help complete some of the more difficult tasks.
If you would like more information on avoiding pain or injury while gardening, one of our qualified physiotherapists is here to help. Perhaps you have questions on a preexisting injury or condition making gardening slightly more difficult for you. Perhaps you could benefit from a specific warm-up or exercise program tailored to you to help you meet your gardening goals. For any inquiries, please contact us at [email protected] to consider a virtual physiotherapy appointment. Our Orléans physiotherapists are here to help the Ottawa and Orléans community.