Plant and Rake Without the Ache

Spring is upon us and we are all just itching to go outside.  This is also the time of year where some of our patients show up with some new aches and pains.  We are often asked “Why am I so sore?  I just did some yard work for a few hours…”  True, gardening isn’t as physically taxing as a circuit at the gym but it can irritate your musculoskeletal system and set the stage for some chronic discomfort.

Here are a few reasons why gardening can be painful…

Improper set up.  Most of us don’t view some raking or weeding as an exercise.  Whatever the activity, one should stretch appropriately before you start.  Remember to address all the major areas, including your neck, shoulders, back and legs.  Stretching should not be painful and should be sustained and not bouncy.  Hold each position for 20-30 seconds, making sure to address both sides equally.  Get creative and use a rake or a shovel to help stretch out before you start.  We are all guilty of wanting to just get out there and get started, but taking the time to stretch and also lay out your tools can be extremely beneficial and save you some residual discomfort.

Bad posture during the activity.  While it may seem tedious to shift and move every few minutes, staying in one place and reaching to grab a weed can create discomfort and may even lead to injury.  Make sure to face your work and check to ensure you aren’t twisting or side bending too much to get to your work area. Kneeling on a mat or sitting on a gardening bench is much less taxing on your body than stooping or squatting.  When raking or shoveling, take the extra step rather than twist to dump your load.  Always try to keep your load close to your body when possible.  Keep an eye on your shoulders, and reset yourself when you feel them creeping up to your ears, your body will thank you.

Failing to take breaks or gardening for too long. Gardening can be very meditative and it is easy to lose track of time but it’s important to take little breaks even if only to ask your body how it’s doing and to reset yourself.  Some patients find it helpful to set a 20-minute timer on their watch or phone to remind them to get up and reset.  Repetitive movements can start to cause fatigue and when we are fatigued, our form starts to suffer.  When we use our muscles improperly and unevenly load the joints, we are opening ourselves up to the risk of injury.  Remember to treat your outdoor activity as an exercise and take the time to stretch after you are done.

At Complete Wellness Clinic, our multidisciplinary team is ready, willing and able to address all of your outdoor activity aches and pains.  We will work with you to address your discomfort, correct any misalignments or muscular imbalances and provide you with some tips on how to garden safely.  Our main priority is getting you back to doing what you love, providing you with the tools to continue to do so for years to come! Give us a call or email us to book your appointment today!