It is that time of year when sciatica after gardening is a very real risk. Often we are full of the winter blues and chomping at the bit to get out there and start tidying up the garden. Even more so now the garden is the only contact with the outside world for many of us.
As you have probably guessed, I am not a keen gardener – unlike my wife. But I am the one who gets a flurry of new patients in the early spring – when I am able to run my practice. The most common injury I have to deal with in my remedial massage work at Healing Hands around this time is lower back problems, which will be of no surprise to some of you.
The main problem is that for the best part of six weeks most people have all been in hibernation, and your bodies are not ready for the excessive strain that gardening puts on your muscles, tendons and ligaments, not to mention your spine. In current climate this is even more the case.
Like all physical activity, whether it is sporting or work related, your body needs to be prepared for action; this means that before going out there you should do a gentle warm up and some easy stretching. Wrap up well too, as cold muscles and tendons are more likely to strain when placed under loads repeatedly.
There is a tendency for us to get a little carried away once we have got the bit between our teeth and we then wake up the next day with aches and pains.
Quite often we will have strained our muscles through over working them and I have come across a number of people who have developed repetitive strain injuries (RSI) of the thumb joint or wrist, usually through getting carried away with either the pruning shears or the fork and trowel.
The benefits of getting out in the garden far outweigh the potential downside even if we want to avoid a bout of sciatica. Approached sensibly gardening is one of the best forms of exercise you can do for both your body and mind. We absolutely love it and are great advocates of gardening as a form of exercise to help prevent sciatica despite the risks it poses for some. With that in mind we have summarised a few tips and tricks for you to make sure gardening is always one of your favourite pastimes and not a trigger for pain.
Follow these 9 tips to prevent sciatica after gardening;
- Do small amounts of gardening at a time.
- Decide on one job in the garden and just do that (no distractions).
- Be strict with yourself and only do one hour at a time and then have a break before starting on your next task.
- It is very important that you invest in the right equipment for doing the task, e.g. long handled tools (shears, hoe, hand forks and trowels) to stop you over reaching.
- Get a good wheel barrow to move things around the garden and avoid carrying heavy trugs, bags of compost or potted plants.
- Wear the right clothing appropriate for the weather. Remember to keep warm and dry in inclement weather. Good gloves and kneeling pads are a must all year round.
- If you can invest in good power tools such as soil tillers, hedge trimmers, scarifiers, etc.
- Use a portable garden stool to reduce the amount of squatting and bending.
- Think about creating raised beds to reduce bending.
Well, to say I am not an expert gardener, merely the labourer, I think I have given you some food for thought. So I hope you continue to relax and enjoy your gardens pain-free.
All the best and stay safe