The most important piece of advice is to pace yourself! Many of us tend to be less active over the winter, meaning that muscles can be weaker and joints stiffer than normal. So, deciding to trim all the hedges in one go on the first sunny day of the year could trigger some of the common aches and pains.
- Lower back pain
A lot of repetitive bending and lifting can put excessive strain on the lower back. The muscles and joints can become irritated and, in some cases, trigger painful spasms.
- Knee pain
The knee joint has two crescent moon shaped cartilage inside it called the menisci ( one meniscus). They can become irritated during deep squatting/twisting activities that can lead to pain and locking, with muscle spasm.
- Tennis elbow
Is an irritation of the tendon origin ( common extensor origin) on the outside of your elbow, caused by overuse of the wrist extensors . It is commonly caused by excessive squeezing/gripping activities such as pruning or digging with a trowel.
- Shoulder pain
The shoulders take a lot of strain when gardening, a condition known as shoulder impingement can occur because of prolonged periods working with your hands above your head or stretched out in front of you.
How to avoid these injuries?
- Keep yourself active and keep that body moving.
With inactivity comes loss of muscle, flexibility, and strength. If you are weaker or completely immobile in one area, then it’s quite easy to overload another part of your body to make up for lack of use of the other. So, if your leg muscles haven’t been worked out in a while it can be quite easy to put too much strain on your back to accommodate your legs. Regular exercise keep your body flexible and supple for when you are ready to start gardening again.
- Strong back and stomach muscles
Gardening involves a lot of bending and twisting, so whether you have strong legs or not your back is going to take a lot of the strain.
Maintain a balance between abdominal core strength muscles and the muscles of the back to keep your back strong to lug around heavy wheelbarrows and pots! Keep your leg and stomach muscles in check, you are going to need both!
- Stretch/warm up
Getting your heart rate up so your muscles are ready to work is a simple but effective way to prevent injury. Add in some stretches and range of movement exercises and you will have much less risk of picking up any niggles out in the garden.
Click here for a simple warm up routine to carry out before you start gardening.
- Vary your position
Avoid bending over for any longer than necessary and afterwards stretch your back into the opposite position to lengthen the shortened muscles. Ensure that you squat or kneel wherever possible.
- Take breaks – stop every hour for at least 10 minutes.
- Work at a table or a bench when potting cuttings or sowing seed trays.
- Long handled tools are a way to avoid too much bending.
- Wear sun cream and work in the shade when you can to avoid sunburn.
- Use aids – kneeling pads, stools, step ladders (be careful)
When you have finished for the day, avoid sitting down in an armchair for a well-earned rest – this puts your lower back in a stretched position and is often the final straw. Have a hot bath to ease any muscle aches and then rest your back by lying down for a short while.
If you think you have pulled something follow the first aid advice for any recent injury — RICE.
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 tube grip to prevent too much swelling.
Elevation – raise the injured area so it is higher than your heart (this helps reduce swelling).