Autumn is a wonderfully colourful l time of year with leaves turning an array of colours to brighten up the countryside, but for some it means extra jobs in the garden that become a chore! Every year, we see people in clinic who have injured themselves from raking or hoovering up leaves and generally carrying out other heavy gardening jobs! If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with the gardening and how your body will cope, read on for some handy hints to keep yourself injury free!
For some people when gardening they only have a mild discomfort that is short lived, but for others it can create a burning pain in your back or even an overstrain injury. Repetitive twisting whilst sweeping and raking leaves can easily strain a range of tissues throughout the body. The same is true for lifting heavy pots and bags of compost when you've not lifted anything heavy for a while.
Often we find that performing repetitive movements as a movement pattern that we generally do not perform on a daily basis seems to tip the scales and leave people with pain and discomfort. Poor fitness can also contribute to your aches and pains. Regardless of where your pain is coming from, there are a few easy steps you can take to help to prevent your garden aggravating your pain this autumn.
Switch Sides Regularly
We commonly always use the same position when we sweep and rake and that constantly pulls your body to one side. This creates an imbalance, which can contribute to pain. It's a good idea to switch sides with your broom or rake regularly, as if you were doing alternating sets in the gym! It will feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but your brain will quickly work things out!
Use Good Posture
It's important to make sure you don't hunch over when doing gardening jobs. This leads to a ‘disconnection’ between the shoulders, trunk and pelvic and spinal muscles. This leads to a switching off of all of the large stabilising muscles which would normally allow you to move efficiently. So now the body is having to work much harder with smaller muscle groups. So keep an upright, comfortable posture and is you need to repeatedly twist make sure you twist by transferring your weight from one foot to another and not just through your spine, try not to repeatedly twist your upper body. If you need to lift, keep the item close to your body and turn round with your feet, rather than your waist. Rather than bending, try crouching and use the strong muscles in your legs to help you lift, not your spine! Raking and sweeping should partly come from arm movements, mimicking a rowing motion and good weight transference rather than a constant twisting of your body.
Take Your Time
Not many of us enjoy the repetitive chores such as raking leaves, but pacing yourself can have a huge positive benefit to your body. Take your time and try to enjoy being outside in your garden, even if that means splitting jobs into small chunks to be spread out throughout the day. Try to vary what you do too, rather than spending long periods of time on the same job. Spending 10 minutes, two or three times a week and spreading the load on your body is much easier than spending an hour once a week doing the same job.
See an Osteopath
If you feel pain or discomfort every time you rake or shovel, you could benefit from getting your joints, muscles and ligaments checked out. Your spine and body are worth protecting, so seeing one of our osteopaths as a preventative measure might save you a lot of pain or discomfort in the future. Your osteopath can also guide you as to how to improve your movement patterns when gardening making you move with greater ease and efficiency.
With a little common sense, you can easily protect your body when carrying out those autumn chores in the garden. Remember, taking the time to get it done in increments will save you the trouble of one big day of raking! Either way, take good care of yourself, and feel free to contact us if your aches and pains are getting too much to cope with.
To book an appointment with one of our osteopaths, please contact us today.