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Gardening Can be Painful

Part of a parterre in an English garden. Photo...

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Although summer may finally be upon us, many of my patients have been working diligently to prepare their gardens all spring.  I have had many patients come to their physical therapy appointments complaining their back, hands, or shoulders hurt as they weed, rototill, plant, and weed some more.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Our bodies are meant to move and gardening often requires prolonged stooping, pulling with excessive force, grasping with excessive force, and being thrown around by our rototiller of choice.  The secret to injury prevention as always is moderation and planning.  For those of you without a winter sport who may be a bit out of shape, gardening all weekend is a killer.  Please remember to do “little bits often”.  I learned this 23 years ago at my first continuing education class and it has stood the test of time.  Taking mini breaks every 20-30 minutes is a back saver.  After bending and stooping for 20-30 minutes, stand with your hands on top of your back pants pockets and gently rock backwards then return to upright standing 10x.  This should take just 1 minute, but repeated throughout the day in a proactive fashion may prevent your back from aching at the end of the day.

Weeding often involves not only stooping but also pulling and grasping with excessive force.  Again, the idea is to plan ahead and stretch prior to fatigue.  Our fingers have tiny tendons that attach just below the elbow.  To stretch the muscles of your hands, turn your arm palm up, bend your wrist so the fingers face away from your palm then use your other hand to push the palm slightly into that same direction and hold your wrist in this position for 30-60 seconds.  Repeat several times every few hours or more.

If you’ve forgotten to stretch ahead of time and have sore muscles at the end of the day, remember to ice and stretch.  It’s never too late for these steps.  Please call Mary Boyd, MS, PT for further questions regarding injury prevention in the garden at 290-5575.  Mary is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council and owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy.

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