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Spring Has Finally Sprung and So Has Gardening Season!

I love to garden, but I'm an absolute black thumb. I'm lucky if I can grow weeds! Still, every year, I throw on my grungy jeans, put on some gardening gloves, and lift heavy bags of dirt from the car to the back patio (do you even need to refresh the soil each year? That's the kind of gardener I am). I get down on my knees on the concrete patio and play in the dirt for a little while. When I get back up, I am sore and achy.

Reports state that in the spring, visits to primary care physicians with gardening-related injuries are often higher than those for sports like baseball and lacrosse. Even seasoned gardeners complain about aches and pains. On the first sunny day, with the thoughts of a beautiful lawn and garden in mind, we all set out with the best intentions. However, many of us tend to over-work our muscles and joints that we have not used much over the winter months. Because of this, springtime brings a number of common injuries.

The top four common gardening and lawn care injuries we see are:

  • Low back pain

  • Shoulder pain and impingement

  • Bursitis of the knee

  • Neck pain

These common injuries are usually caused by over-use.

We tend to find ourselves wanting to get the job done in a short amount of time. Therefore, the time crunch is hard on our muscles and joints that are not used to the high activity level. This can set off an inflammatory response, which causes tissue irritation and damage. Additionally, many people forget that gardening and lawn care can be a strenuous activity. You can be lifting bags of mulch or dirt, mowing the lawn, or repeatedly getting on and off the ground.

Here are some helpful hints to decrease the likelihood of injuries:

  • Warm up with a short walk or stretches.

  • Squat or kneel with a pad, cart, or gardening stool for lower jobs rather than bending at the waist.

  • Shovel small amounts while keeping the shovel close to your body to decrease pressure on the back.

  • Step into your motions while using a rake or hoe instead of bending forward.

  • Keep your arms close to your sides and walk with or close to the lawn mower or rototiller.

  • Bring an egg timer into the garden and use it to remind yourself to rotate tasks - raking, pruning, digging, pulling weeks - that require different motor skills. Rotating your routine every 15 minutes will help you avoid repetitive stress injuries.

  • Spread out your work over a longer time of a week or a weekend, instead of one day.

If you are stiff and sore from your strenuous day, try some of the following:

  • Go for a walk to increase blood flow to your muscles which will help with the removal of built up lactic acid which causes soreness.

  • Stretch after your day in the garden, holding each position for 30 seconds to one minute, with 10-15 repetitions.

  • Apply ice for 15-20 minutes to a sore area which will help with pain relief and reduce inflammation.

  • Take a rest from strenuous activities to give your body some time to recover.

Good luck with your gardening adventures! Send us pictures of what you grow. Hopefully you have more luck than I do!

If you or a loved one is in pain, we'd love to help. Call us at FlexPlus Physical Therapy at 508-650-0060 to set up an initial evaluation. Not sure if physical therapy is right for you? Ask us for a free consultation! At FlexPlus, we're with you every step of the way!

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