With gardening listed as a hobby for over half the adult population of the UK, there are a lot of people at risk of injury now that summer is on its way. At Physio & Therapies the first warm weekends in spring and early summer usually brings us a rash of injuries from back strain to stiff shoulders presenting at our clinic, so here is our advice on how to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
The biggest piece of advice is to pace yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your garden won’t be either! Break jobs down into manageable chunks and give yourself a reward of a break with a cup of tea when you’ve done each part. It’s best to stop every hour for at least 10 minutes.
Vary your position – don’t bend over for any longer than absolutely necessary and afterwards stretch your back into the opposite position to lengthen the shortened muscles or do some pruning while standing up. Make sure that you squat or kneel wherever possible and when potting up cuttings or seeds work at elbow height.
Buying long handled tools is an obvious way to save too much bending and choose tools that are light, easy to manipulate and the right tool for the job. Long handled shears and loppers are versatile and often prevent the need to use ladders.
When kneeling to weed, use a foam pad to protect your knees. Move the pad as you work to prevent over reaching. Save up plastic carrier bags to put garden waste in – they are much easier to lift and carry than big black sacks – or better still start a compost heap.
Installing raised beds helps limit your bending and is an excellent solution for the elderly or disabled. For more information about this visit http://www.carryongardening.org.uk
When you’ve finished for the day don’t sit down in an armchair for a well earned rest – this puts your low back in a stretched position and is often the final straw. Have a hot bath to ease any muscle ache and then rest your back by lying down for a short while even if it’s only on the lounge floor in front of the TV.
Prevention is better than cure – so here are ways to get fitter ready for the gardening season ahead!
Knee pain is a common problem experienced by gardeners normally caused by repeated bending and squatting. By strengthening the muscles around your knees you will provide them with more support that may reduce the risk of problems. Gentle exercise such as swimming or cycling 2 to 3 times a week may help. Your Physiotherapist may also be able to prescribe you a specific exercise program tailored to suit your needs.
Pilates is gentle exercise that works on strengthening the muscles that improve posture and support your spine. Weekly sessions may be helpful to strengthen you up if you are a very keen gardener or if you suffer with frequent problems. This form of exercise can easily be done in your own home or in a class environment, but chose a small class so you get individual attention. We run classes for 4 people at a time at Physio & Therapies and this is ideal.
Using shears and cutters often results in elbow pain. This may be caused by inflammation of the tendons around the elbow, muscle strains through overuse or nerve irritation. If you are using shears regularly you must ensure that you take regular breaks and stop if you start to experience pain. Ice application may reduce symptoms, as can specific wrist and elbow exercises. Your Physiotherapist may also be able to show you how to tape your elbow yourself when gardening which may help to reduce the pressure on certain structures.
If you think you have pulled something follow the first aid advice for any recent injury –
Rest – keep your weight off the area for at least a few hours
Ice – use a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea towel for 15 minutes
Compression – apply a bandage or tubigrip to prevent too much swelling
Elevation – raise the injured area so it is higher than your heart – this helps reduce swelling
Arnica is useful to take for stains and bruises – it is a Homeopathic remedy and can be bought at most Health food shops and chemists. If the pain persists contact your GP or visit a Chartered Physiotherapist for assessment and treatment. You can book appointments by calling our team on 01706 819464.