Wednesday, May 28, 2014 3:14 PM EDT
By: Iris Benaroia
Most of us don’t worry about hurting ourselves while pruning the peonies. Yet each year when the weather starts to warm up, chiropractor Kristina Peterson sees the inevitable gardening-related injuries.
Peterson, who is the president of the Ontario Chiropractic Association and runs her own clinic in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the most common injury overall, regardless of season or activity, is to the back. “I would say 85% of people in our office are there because of they’ve injured their back,” she says. (While a total of 88% of Ontario chiropractors report that gardening is the most common source of back and neck pain at this time of year.)
As with all exercise — and it is exercise, Peterson insists — it comes down to warming up the ole body. “People need to be reminded to prepare for what activity they’re doing, whether it’s lifting heavy bags of soil to raking and planting.”
And shake it up. “Maintaining one position is hard on the body,” notes Peterson. “Whether you’re sitting at your desk all day at the office or gardening outdoors, it’s essential to switch it up.” Carry some bags of leaves to the curb, then turn over the soil then do some watering. Using different muscles at different times ensures you don’t overtax them.
Gardening, after all, can be as strenuous on the body as pumping weights. “Most people often forget that gardening is exercise,” says Peterson. “If we go to the gym, we warm up, bring water and wear the right clothing and shoes.” Don’t forget, she adds, we probably haven’t worked these particular muscles in months (and, no, that luggage-size load of lemon scones you’ve consumed in one sitting doesn’t count as heavy lifting).
Improper gardening techniques can cause repetitive strain injuries of the wrist and elbow, and cause wear and tear on joints and muscles throughout the body, especially (as noted earlier) to the lower back. So before you pull, haul and plant, follow Ontario chiropractors’ “Plant & Rake without the Ache” tip list. For more advice, surf over to the OCA website: https://www.chiropractic.on.ca:
Plant & Rake without the Ache
- Warm Up – Gardening is hard work! Make sure you stretch your thighs, shoulders, sides, arms, back and hamstrings before you start to get the most out of your gardening.
- Alternate – Switch from heavy tasks to light ones, and change your hands and positions frequently.
- Lift Right – Always bend with your knees and keep a straight back. Carry the load close to your body.
- Kneel to Plant – Knee pads or a kneeling mat can help to ease the strain on your back while you plant and weed your garden. Keep a straight back and stop when you need to have a break.
- Rake Right – Put one leg in front and another behind when you rake, and alternate on occasion to minimize the back strain.
Tip List for a Healthy Back
- Have the right tools for the task at hand
- Ensure you drink plenty of fluids
- Alternative between light and heavy jobs
- Lift correctly
- Take frequent breaks
- Heavy loads should be shared
- Your feet should be protected with thick-soled supportive shoes
- Before you start, warm up your muscles
- Avoid muscle strain, learn the right techniques
- Change positions frequently
- Kneel to plant and weed
- Spinal check ups can keep your back healthy