To everything there is a season and to each new season often a new set of aches and pains.
As a physiotherapist I often see a sudden surge in patients with symptoms attributed to the challenges of the season change … foot pain when non-supportive rain boots are donned, shoulder pain as the wood cutting needs doing. The “spring meltdown” as I call it, is primarily related to spring clean-up, indoors and outdoors.
After a long winter which may have curtailed physical activity, most people are likely to be sore and fatigued if not properly prepared for spring clean-up.
Injuries resulting from over exertion while lifting, pushing and pulling are among the most common, resulting in neck, shoulder and back pain. Preparation for these tasks and planning for safety is most useful. The following tips should help keep people injury free.
Warm up before garden work
Gardening and yard work engages virtually every muscle in the body. Walk for a few minutes to promote circulation. Ten minutes should be sufficient.
Maintain good posture
Keep a wide base of support while you stand. Move your feet while raking. Hold the rake near the end with 1 hand, and two-thirds down with the other hand.
Use your legs to shift your weight from side to side.
Kneeling is always better than bending. Wear knee pads if necessary. Try sitting on an overturned bucket for weeding and hinge at the hips. Hips were designed for this purpose.
Work in the yard when it is dry. Wear proper shoes with skid resistant soles and proper support. Flip-flops and Crocs don’t quite meet those criteria. Don’t overfill bags or tarps. Pace and hydrate as needed.
Don’t overdo it!
Rotate tasks to avoid straining muscles. After 15 minutes of raking, change to pruning. Space out tasks over several days. No Olympic medals have been rewarded for getting the garden planted in one day.
Some soreness after gardening is common but should settle in 24 to 48 hours. If symptoms do not settle or if you experience shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain be sure to consult your physician.
About the author: Joanne (Billings) Olsen, a Madawaska Valley native, is a Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. After 40 years of successful clinical practice and Peer Mentoring in Regulation in Southern Ontario, Joanne has returned to her roots to share what she ventured off to learn.