11 Tips to Avoid Aches, Pains and Injury While Working in Your Garden or Yard This Spring

Last year a 63 year-old patient (let’s call her Kay) came to my clinic very discouraged. She said she went to the doctor because of back pain and stiffness and was told she had arthritis. She was distraught as she lives alone, is very active and felt that she was doomed to live in pain. Funny thing was, her pain was very minimal and once I asked about her pain, here is what she said.

“It started after I trimmed 17 bushes around my house over a three-day period. I had never experienced back pain before this, but when the doctor told me I have arthritis, I knew I had to stop everything or I would live in pain.”

I smiled and gently assured her that her arthritis had been there for years and that if I trimmed 17 bushes in three days I would feel back pain and aches. I let her know that her life was not over by any means and the fact she was able to trim 17 bushes in three days proved she was far from being done with activities, BUT, I said, “Kay, maybe take a few less bushes a day and spread it out a bit longer and everything would be fine next time.” She left with a new lease on life relieved to know arthritis did not have to slow her down…

SO, with Spring nearly in full swing, it’s time to get your yard and garden prepared for summer. Is YOUR body ready? Many people spend the winter months less active, or hibernating (if you will), so you may be at risk for injury IF you do not prepare adequately. Getting out and working in the garden / yard too quickly can cause muscle pain, back, shoulder, and knee strains and pains.

Here are some tips to help avoid some common aches and pains you might encounter while gardening:

  • Start slow and slowly progress the level of activity.
  • Work smarter, not harder. Use tools to reduce risk and strain on body.
  • Warm up first by walking &/or stretching before beginning yard / gardeningwork.
  • STOP at any signs of pains in joints or back, though it is NOT unusual to havesome muscular fatigue or soreness with new activities.
  • Feel free to use an ice pack for any region of soreness. I recommend up to 20’.
  • IF pain persists > 72 hours without relief, call our office for advice.

To HELP minimize risk of injury during working in yard/ garden, try these simple tips:

  • Alternate positions frequently to avoid stressing muscles and joints orcausing fatigue. Keep plant pots at various heights, on tables, at waistlevel and on ground to help with changing positions.
  • Drink MORE water than you think you need, many people aredehydrated and do not know it.
  • Do not be afraid to take breaks to move, stretch and rest a bit each 45-60minutes.
  • Use proper tools to avoid stressing your body unnecessarily, e.g. kneepads for kneeling, thick handled spades for planting etc.
  • When done with activities remember to “cool down” with a walk orgentle stretching activities.

MOST importantly, remember pain is a sign from your body that something is wrong. IT is not worth creating more problems by working through or pushing through pain. Don’t ignore your body’s cries for mercy. NOT stopping may cause more problems than it is worth. IF pain does NOT calm down in 48-72 hours, call our office and ask for help on what to do!! We are always here for you!!!!

Trupti Mehta, PT, MS, OCS
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