Physical Therapy Tips for Gardening
Posted April 22, 2022
Spring is in the air! These nonstop April showers are about to give way to May flowers, and if you’re anything like us, that means you’ve got a few things to do to get your yard looking it’s best after a long winter.
Whether you’ve got a few planters on your porch or a veritable garden, maintaining a yard can feel like a full-time job. The upkeep that comes with having a yard is enough of a chore, but tweaking your back while pulling weeds? That really adds insult to injury.
If you’re preparing to spend this weekend tending to your yard, please pro-seed through our list of tips & tricks for maintaining your garden, your health, and your sanity. (Get it? We promise that’s the only bad pun we’ll try to sneak past you today.)
Protect Your Knees & Elbows
Whether you’re pulling weeds or planting, odds are you’ll be kneeling on the ground for extended periods of time. Our number one tip? Get a good, soft kneeling mat or a pair of knee pads. Though it may seem like an unnecessary piece of equipment, we have a feeling you’ll be grateful for the extra support within a matter of minutes.
Additionally, when you’re spending a lot of time hunched over your flower beds, try to shift positions fairly regularly to give your knees a rest. Spend a few minutes sitting on a bucket, or take a couple breaks an hour to walk around to take some pressure off your knees and back.
Similarly, all the repetition from digging, pruning, and weeding can be tough on your wrists and forearms. When you stand to give your lower extremities a break, try stretching your arms and wrists for a few minutes to give them a little relief. A good pair of gloves is also a must!
Maintain Good Posture
Easier said than done but keeping your shoulders back and down (instead of rolled forward towards your ears) will make a world of difference. When pulling weeds, try to bend from your hips instead of hunching your back.
And, when you’ve procrastinated long enough and it’s time to do some heavy lifting (we’re definitely not speaking from experience here…), be sure to square your torso off to the offending item, bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Future you says thanks.
Don’t Break Your Back
Time for fresh mulch? Don’t be a hero and try to load all the bags of mulch into the car yourself – let someone help you! Most garden centers will help you load for free. When you get home, use your trusty wheelbarrow to help you lug the bags from point A to point B.
Big branches and sticks down all over the yard after the winter’s storms? Again, put your wheelbarrow to use and let it do the hard work of hauling back and forth.
Your Lawnmower is Here to Help You, Not Hurt You
If you’re using a push mower with an adjustable handlebar, adjust it to waist height. Most of the work of pushing the mower should be coming from your legs as you walk back and forth across the yard, not your arms. Adjusting the handlebar to the appropriate position should also help you keep good posture as you mow.
Stretch When You’re Finished
Skeptical? Hear us out on this one. Gardening and yard work, while exhausting, don’t appear on any lists for traditional exercise methods. We get it. But look back on your day + you’ll realize you probably spent a good portion of the session engaging your core, back, arms, and legs in all manner of ways. Taking a few minutes to stretch the way you would after any other workout could make a huge difference in how sore you are the next day. Be sure to rehydrate, too!
Protect Your Skin!
If it’s true enough for your mom to repeat ad nauseum, you can bet we’ll be shouting it from the rooftops, too – wear your sunscreen! Any time you’re outside, you should be wearing SPF and a hat. Long sleeves and/or pants can also be helpful if you’re dealing with sharper objects like branches and sticks.
Helpful? We hope so! If you do notice lingering soreness or pain that doesn’t go away with a little rest, give us a call. Your physical therapist can recommend exercises that will target and strengthen any extra-sore areas, so you don’t cramp up next time you’re back at work.