Following a long and cold winter, we always enjoy the arrival of spring and summer, and the opportunity to enjoy seasonal outdoor activities again.

Gardening is a great way to enjoy the nice weather, while maintaining joint flexibility, range of motion and quality of life.

However, if proper care is not taken, gardening can cause injury to different body parts. The knees and the spine are the most common areas of injury related to gardening. To avoid these injuries, it is important to know how to safely move, kneel, sit, stand, and carry objects while gardening.

The following simple tips can be followed to minimize injury to the knees and back:

  1. To lift an object from the ground, bend your hips and knees to squat down instead of bending from the back with legs straight. Tighten your stomach muscles and hold objects close to your body to avoid straining your joints. Always remember to activate your core!
  2. Avoid working in the same position or doing the same activity for long periods of time to prevent over-stressing one group of muscles. Switch tasks every 30 minutes and take 15 minute breaks every hour. For example, if you’ve been on your knees weeding for a half-hour, make your next activity is one that allows you to stand.²
  3. Work during the time of day that you feel best. If you feel stiff in the morning, especially if you suffer from arthritic joint pain, then save gardening activities for later in the day.²
  4. When you must kneel on the knees for tasks like weeding and planting, use a knee pad to soften the impact.
  5. Maintain good posture at all times. When walking, keep a slight arch in your lower back and tighten your abdominal muscles. When sitting, do not slouch – sit with feet supported and knees level or higher than hips. Good posture keeps joints and muscles in their most stable position. Poor posture can put tension on muscles and joints and lead to unnecessary pain.¹
  6. Many gardening tasks require good knee and back strength. The best way to protect your knees and back from the stress and strain is to condition them with stretching and strengthening exercises. Your Physiotherapist at LifeSpring can recommend specific exercises and stretches that are appropriate for you.

Happy Gardening!

References:

1-Predny, M. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Gardening and Your Health: Protecting Your Knees and Back. 2009. Available at https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-065/426-065.html. Accessed April 16,2015

2- Predny, M. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Gardening and Your Health: Arthritis. 2009. Available at http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-062/426-062.html. Accessed April 16, 2015.