With all the good weather we have recently had inspires us to get stuck into our gardens. A recent survey by Gardeners World recently documented that gardens are generally happier than non gardeners! However, hours of pruning, weeding, lifting and digging can make you realise you had muscles you didn’t know you had. Gardening is actually a very strenuous activity which we often don’t realise how much strength and stamina is required. Hospitals see more gardening injuries more than any other single sporting activity. Often a lot of the injuries could be avoided by lifting correctly, addressing risks and taking more time rather than rushing.
Back pain is probably the most common injury we see at the Osteopathic clinic. Pruning, raking, weeding and digging all put repetitive movements into the back which can put strain on the ligaments, muscles, tendons, joints and discs. The back may feel fine during but will start aching and become stiff later on and the next day due to inflammation.
Shoulder impingement & Neck irritation is another common presentation to the clinic following a heavy weekend of gardening. Tasks that involve overhead work can cause problem to the neck and shoulders. The rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder (four very important muscles for stability) become compressed in the front joint of the shoulder (the AC joint). You may get tendonitis or bursitis due to excessive overhead movement, particularly if you already have arthritis in the AC joint as the extra boney growth narrows the gap in which the tendon has to pass through which increases the rub on the tendon making it inflamed and painful.
In the same way the neck may feel stiff, achey and restricted after a long day of hedge cutting or chopping back undergrowth with heavy secateurs. The orientation of the facet joints in the neck mean that persistent looking up (extension) can cause the facet joints to become compressed and irritate the ligament, muscles and joint capsule. This will be intensified if there is already arthritis, spondylitis or other pre existing issues with the neck.
The knee is another area which can take a lot of strain with repetitive bending and kneeling. Bursitis is a common injury caused by the bursa of the knee inflaming. The bursa is a fluid filled -sac that prevents friction between the different structures of the knee. The repetitive kneeling, weeding, planting etc. can causes prolonged pressure on the bursa which in turn causes pain and swelling in the region.
Ligaments and cartilage surrounding the knee joint is also a common site of irritation in gardeners due to twisting from the body and pelvis without moving the feet correctly. Mowing the lawn or strimming is a good example of how torsion can be put on the knee joints which stretches and strains the ligaments and can even tear the cartilage.
Hand and elbow pain often due to repetitive strain during gardening. If there is already mild arthritis in any of the smaller joints, a day of weeding and trimming can cause the joints to really flare. These small repetitive movements over use small muscles and pull on their insertion points in the bone and can cause injuries such as tendonitis in the elbow, tenosynovitis or trigger finger.
Unfortunately the problems may have be lurking in the body for some time but the sudden burst of gardening activity can be the final factor to push it over the edge and start causing the symptoms.
Advice – all of the injuries mentioned cannot outweigh the positive affects gardening has on your fitness and general wellbeing. If the following steps are taken then the potential for injury can be reduced.
- Don’t rush or set yourself too much to achieve even if the weather is only going to last the weekend!!
- Regular breaks and mix it up. Change your activity every 20-30 minutes to ensure you use different joints and muscles.
- When lifting, use you legs and keep the item as close to the body as possible. Lift straight in front of you without twisting, keeping your feet facing the way you are going. Keep your core in whilst lifting ( belly button to spine)
- Soft foam pads for kneeling to protect the knees and to avoid bending which will protect the back. Use a potting stool instead of stooping
Bedworth Active Health Clinic welcomes you...
Whether you have chronic niggles, aches or muscle and joint pain due to work-related strain, sports injuries, or postural problems; you are suffering acute problems due to an accident, whiplash, pregnancy, a slipped disc or trapped nerve; or you suffer with other symptoms such as headaches or general stiffness, the team at The Bedworth Active Health Centre for osteopathy and sports injuries can help.