Getting Into Gardening
by Doranne Long, PT
When spring is in the air, it is tempting to dive into yard work and gardening.
Here are a few tips from a physical therapist.
Start with 15-20 minutes of any activity; stop when fatigued and avoid pain.
Continuing to work when fatigued may cause pain, strains, or tendonitis.
Avoid repetitive motions e.g. pruning, weeding, raking, shoveling; take frequent breaks. It is easier to avoid painful conditions than to treat them.
Bracing can be helpful; especially to prevent thumb pain, or use a forearm cuff to prevent elbow tendonitis.
Use good body mechanics when raking, sweeping, digging; lift with the legs.
Avoid prolonged bending. Try several back bends after being bent forward to decrease back pain and to stretch hip flexor muscles.
Stretch before and after gardening; avoid stiffness by continuing with light activities, rather than with prolonged sitting.
Remain well hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during, and after gardening.
Be aware - weather changes, changes in the barometer with increased or decreased air pressure, affects the body and can cause aches and stiffness.
Ice, heat, pillows, and positioning are all helpful to decrease pain and swelling.
Ice is nice to decrease pain, swelling and bruising. Use ice 3-5x/day for up to 20 minutes.
Heat is best used to decrease stiffness e.g. heated rice sock, heating pad, hot shower or soaking in a hot tub.
Rice sock: Put 2 pounds of uncooked rice into a long sock; tie/sew closed. Heat in microwave about 2 minutes or until comfortably warm. Can be frozen and used as an ice pack.
If increased motion with decreased pain, can continue.
If decreased motion with increased pain, stop!
Gardening, in moderation, can be great fun, relaxing, and therapeutic.
Doranne Long is a member of the Oregon Native Plant Society, Siskiyou Chapter, and a physical therapist. Author of Your Body Book Guide to Better Body Motion with Less Pain, Doranne is passionate about helping others successfully manage their health.