Springtime gardening and back health


Although itÕs still cold time for springtime gardening has at long last arrived. Most avid gardeners have already been out, pruning and clearing looking for new nubs of growth that will turn into the glorious spring and summer flowers that will unfold into a blanket of color over the coming months.

Springtime in my office brings avid gardeners that have been over zealous and less than careful with bending, twisting and stooping while busy gardening. Being a gardener myself I understand how easy it is to get lost in the warmth of the day and the beauty of the plants, but with some conscious effort one can still enjoy the fruits of their labor without the pain of injury.

According to the National Gardening Assoication, about 40 million US households have a garden. Although considered by most a hobby, gardening can be an intense exercise routine that involves all the major muscle groups. Just as with any workout you should do some warm up stretching, especially toe touches that will help lengthen the hamstrings while bending, lifting and digging. At the end of your gardening day, be sure to stretch again and consider a soak in a tub of hot water.

Here are some other tips that will help prevent back strain or injury while gardening-

1. When buying and preparing soil, choose smaller, lighter bags and lift with bent knees and a straight back.

2. Do not stay in a bent over position too long. Stand up, stretch and walk around every 10-15 minutes.

3. Kneel down instead of bending over for prolonged periods and use kneepads to protect your knees.

4. Use lightweight, long handled shovels or spades to reduce back strain. Try using a pitchfork, which breaks hard soil more easily without the force needed with a straight spade.

5. Be sure to drink plenty of water while gardening. Dehydration will add to the lactic acid load instead of being washed out.

6. Wear shoes that support your feet and ankles. This will keep your back from getting tired as quickly.

7. Apply some arnica gel to your low back, knees and hips when youÕre finished gardening. Arnica helps prevent soreness and inflammation.

8. If soreness continues well into the next day try drinking a glass of red grape juice with a teaspoon of Certo (purchased in the local groceries canning section.) Made from apple pectin Certo neutralizes lactic acids and eases muscle pain.

9. DonÕt forget to beef up on supplements that will add strength and endurance- fish oil for heart and blood vessel health, vitamin C to help prevent bruising, glucosamine chondrotin to keep your joints stronger and less prone to injury and vitamin B for good energy.

10. Eat lightly before gardening, but something nutritious.

Because the gardening season is so short here in the Midwest, we tend to rush, unmindful of a winterÕs worth of inactivity. Therefore, our backs and other major joints are more prone to injury due to poor tone. Nothing is more painful to a gardener to loose a whole season of gardening due to back pain and injury. Use these common sense tips to enjoy a whole season of glorious gardening. Till next time, Rebecca.