Friday, 16 August 2013

Chiropractic Gardening Tips

We know what it's like in the UK with summer - we take what we can get! So when the weather warms up and the plants start to grow everyone dashes outside to do their gardening.

This can be a cause of many emergency visits to the clinic over the spring and summer months as people go straight out into the garden and then spend their whole day gardening. The repetitive motion that your body undergoes during gardening can cause mechanical problems within the body.

Gardening is a great workout for the whole body with all that bending, twisting, lifting and pulling and so it is important to treat gardening as a form of exercise, you need to warm up at the start and cool down afterwards. The back, upper legs, shoulders and wrists are all used a lot when you are gardening so these are good areas to focus on when you warm up and cool down.

Warm up
A warm up is important to stretch and warm up your muscles before you start to use them for manual labour. You can start with the lighter jobs before moving onto the heavier jobs, alternatively you can do a more formal warm up:

  • Side bends                                       
  • Shoulder circles
  • Wrist circles
  • Hamstring stretch          
  • Stretch to the sky       
    Side bend

    Hamstring stretch
Stretch to the sky

Don't throw  yourself into a whole day gardening without many breaks to start with - ease your body gently into this great form of exercise and build up to spending longer in the garden as you get more accustomed to the movement and exercise.

Cool down
At the end of your gardening session it is a good idea to do some gentle stretching again - these can be the same as the ones in the warm up. This can also be a good opportunity, if it is later in the evening, to slowly walk around your garden and water the plants - helping you to slowly cool down after the exercise of gardening without suddenly stopping and sitting down. Hard exercise and then just stopping and staying still can leave you feeling stiff and achy.

Tips for safe happy gardening
  • use easy grip garden tools - so that you don't put excess strain on your hands, wrists and arms from tightly gripping heavy tools.
  • Don't just yank those weeds out of the ground - dig them out. This can help prevent a sudden jarring of your back or shoulder when the weed finally gives.
  • Kneel - don't bend
  • If you do need to bend - bend at your knees and not in your back
  • Alternate your stance and movements as often as possible to keep your muscles and body balanced
  • Vary your activity every 20-30 minutes as well as taking regular breaks.
If you have done your gardening and experience pain afterwards then place an ice pack over the area - this helps reduce inflammation around the area and in turn reduces the pain, (it is also lovely and cooling when the weather is hot). Keep mobile and don't stay in any one position for too long - this will allow your muscles to stiffen which will increase any discomfort you feel when you get up to move.

Hazel Dillon is a Chiropractor at The Octagon Chiropractic Clinic