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Top tips to avoid pain while gardening

July 2nd, 2021 by
Category: Back pain Dr. Kodie Smith Headaches Knee pain Neck pain Sciatica

Overhead photo of gardener potting plants

Do you have a green thumb that is tingling to be let loose, or are you already apart of the 52% of keen gardeners across Australia? Gardening is an extremely rewarding hobby for the mind, body and soul that can enjoyed by people of all ages. Gardening requires a collection of skills, knowledge, hard work, dedication, and patience. Gardening also has several health benefits including:

Because gardening can be a physically demanding hobby, developing or aggravating pain in our body is a regular occurrence among gardeners. Common musculoskeletal aches and pains associated with gardening include:

Top tips to avoid pain during gardening

To avoid and prevent aches and pains out in the garden, here are five super simple tips for all gardening lovers: 

1. Gentle stretches and warm up

Before you go out into your garden, take 5-10 minutes to gently stretch out your muscles and warm up your joints. Some great warm up techniques include high knee marching, bending down to touch your toes, rotating side to side, knee squats and moving your head in a circle. This is will also help to get the blood pumping and your energy flowing so you are more focused and eager to get stuck into it.

2. Hydration

Hydrating our body with water will help to relieve muscle/joint pain by keeping them soft and flexible whilst in the garden. It will also help to ensure our muscles can continuously contract and relax as we work in the garden free from muscle spasms and cramps. As a bonus effect, water will also help to keep our minds clear so we can focus and concentrate on the weeds at hand.

3. Tools ease the load

Do not make gardening a burden! Make it an easy and enjoyable task by using handy garden tools like wheelbarrows, garden carts, hand-held shoves and forks. This will help to take pressure off your muscles and joints, prevent injury or re-aggravation of conditions and will also make tasks like digging, lifting, transporting and planting much easier.

4. Take regular breaks

If you have an afternoon of gardening planned, big or small, make sure to schedule in regular breaks. Regular breaks are an essential part of gardening as they help to prevent fatigue injuries by giving your body a physical rest and allowing your mind time to knock off and relax. Breaks also have the bonus in that they give you the perfect opportunity to have water and food stops.

5. Know your limits

Now this can be a hard tip to follow because we all like to think we are invincible. Unfortunately, this is not true, and our bodies do have their limits. It is especially important to know these limits to protect ourselves from serious injuries. If you are unable to lift or move something on your own, call a friend to come around and help you out. If you are starting to feel tired or fatigued, listen to your body and give yourself a well-deserved break. I promise that those weeds or plants will happily wait for you to re-energise and come back to finish the job.

How to manage existing issues and pain during gardening

For those gardeners who are looking for ways to manage their existing injuries or pain, here are three tips for you – 

1. Correct gardening positioning

Depending on the injury/condition you are managing, this will influence what positions or activities you should be engaging in. For example, it is recommended that people with knee injuries should avoid kneeling onto their knees, and shoulder injuries should be managed by limiting the number of overhead activities completed. For tailored positional advice ask your local health practitioner or do some online research and try out some particular positions until you find the optimal one for your injuries.

2. Knee padding or seating

To manage injuries – knee, hip or back joints – I recommend utilising a small stool/seat or investing in some knee padding material. These devices will help to take the extra strain off those continuously used joints and muscles so you can last longer in the garden and get the jobs done without the constant intervention of pain and stiffness.

3. Protective gear

It goes without saying, protective gear like gloves, sun hats and correct footwear are designed to protect. Wearing protective gear will not only prevent muscle or joint injuries, but will also prevent cuts, grazes or blisters as well as chemical risks from fertilizers or pesticides.

What to do if you injure yourself gardening

1. Don’t ignore the pain

Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is not right and the more you ignore the signals, the worse or more severe the injury could possibly get. Make sure you stay in tune with your body and listen to those warning signals.

2. Stop and ice

As soon as you notice those painful warning signals, stop what you are doing, find a comfortable position and apply ice to the area of pain. It is recommended you apply the ice for 20 minutes and repeat every 1-2 hours for the next 24 hours. This will help to reduce swelling and inflammation in the affected area and reduce the possibility of severe injuries.

3. Rest

Rest is an essential step to caring for those gardening injuries. Take a break to allow your body the time to heal and recover. I recommend resting until you no longer feel the pain or injury. If you return to your activities and the pain begins again, this is telling you that you need a longer rest break to recuperate.

4. Seek out medical assistance and care

If the injury or pain persists after your gardening adventure, please seek out medical assistance to receive appropriate medical care. This will ensure your injuries or painful issues are taken care of so you can return to your beautiful garden in no time.

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