By Doctor Paul Calladine (Chiro)
Next time you're in the garden, pull weeds out...not your back
With the change of each season comes a new opportunity to spend more time in your garden. Spring and summer brings opportunity to plant seedlings that will grow into fresh salad leaves, bountiful herbs and tomatoes. Autumn and winter is the time to prune shrubs to ensure fast regrowth in the coming spring.
With all this outdoor work comes a great deal of bending, reaching, pulling and awkward positions. Gardening can provide a great workout however it's important to understand how you may injury yourself and what you can do to prevent this. Read on for my top tips on preventing back injury while in the garden.
Should I warm up?
"A warm-up and cool-down period is as important in gardening as it is for any other physical activity," says Dr. Scott Bautch, member of the American Chiropractic Association Council on Occupational Health. "Simple stretches...help alleviate injuries, pain and stiffness."
Athletes always warm up before training and competition. Why? A warm up serves two purposes. First, it enhances overall performance. Second, it reduces risk of injury. Now apply this to your physical activities, including gardening. What may be a casual plucking of nuisance weeds could result in serious back injury if you twist/turn/pull the wrong way.
Garden fitness stretches
Here are my recommended stretches you should try before your next outing in the garden. These stretches work to alleviate muscle tightness, increase blood flow and to reduce possible muscle pain the day after.
- Start with your breath. Breathe in and out, slow and focused. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. This will relax you and increase flow of oxygen.
- Stand up, hug yourself with your arms and slowly rotate your upper body to the left. Hold, and back to the right. Repeat several times.
- Now, instead of hugging yourself, open both arms out to the side (forming a T position) and again rotate your upper body to the left. Hold, and rotate to the right. Repeat several times.
- While standing, weave your fingers together and stretch your arms above your head, palms facing towards the sky. Lean to one side, hold, and lean to the other side.
- Being mindful of your back, gently squat down as low as you can go. Try to keep your knees inline with your toes. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.
- While standing, rest your foot on a low step or bench, keep your leg straight, and gently reach forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg or hamstring. Repeat on each leg several times.
- Also try star jumps or running on the spot for 30 seconds at a time to increase heart rate.
Correct lifting and bending technique
Now that you've warmed up, you need to use correct lifting and bending technique to prevent back injury and pain. Kneel down rather than bend with your back, even for those easy to reach weeds. Try knee pads or a portable knee cushion to make kneeling more comfortable. When lifting items, follow this check list:
- Be sure that its a safe weight for one person to easily lift
- Squat down in front of the item bending your hips and knees
- Lift with your legs. Your leg muscles are the strongest in your body and designed for such tasks.
- If an item is too heavy to lift by yourself, leave it and ask for help.
- Keep the item close to your body at all times, do not carry above shoulder height or hold out in front of you.
- Avoid turning or twisting while holding/moving the object.
- Practice the same squat technique when placing the object down. You may even need to squat onto one knee for support.
What happens if I injure myself?
If you feel pain or tenderness after gardening, apply an ice pack to sooth any inflammation. If you experience persistent pain or have injured yourself, consider a visit to your local Doctor of Chiropractic. You may have an underlying structural weakness that requires attention. How is your posture?
Remember, posture is the window to your spine. If you're crooked on the outside chances are you're crooked on the inside. Chiropractors work to identify the cause of many health problems and correct them. You can learn more about chiropractic for backpain on our service pages.
Take Action Today!
Are you suffering poor posture, back pain or headaches? To book a chiropractic consultation at Lyons Road Family Chiro please phone (02) 9819 6182 or email us today.
About Dr Paul Calladine B.Sc.(Biol.), B.Sc.(Anat.), M.Chiro. (Gonstead Diplomate) and Lyons Road Family Chiropractic.
Lyons Road Family Chiro and Dr Paul (Chiro) have been serving the health care needs of Sydney's Inner West and Drummoyne communities for over 23 years. Paul is originally from Canada and has obtained high levels of tertiary qualifications from both Canada and Australia. Paul is a wealth of information on all things natural, on fitness, long term health, nutrition and of course, chiropractic.