One of the most rewarding hobbies is gardening. It requires hard work, patience, skill, and knowledge, but in return, you get beautiful flowers, herbs, and delicious fruits, vegetables and berries. You also get plenty of exercise while you're gardening. Even a small garden usually requires walking, digging, weeding, bending over and stretching, and while this can be beneficial to your waistline it can be a major pain. Developing or exacerbating pain all over the body while gardening is very common, but you don't have to give up gardening to reduce your pain levels. Just follow these simple tips before, during and after you garden to continue enjoying your garden pain-free.
Stretch and Warm-Up
Since gardening is a workout, it only makes sense to make the same preparations before gardening that you would before a workout. Before you go out to your garden take five minutes to stretch and warm up in order to loosen up muscles and tendons, get your blood flowing and give you a jolt of energy. Some good warm up techniques for gardening are walking, jogging in place, jumping rope and even yoga. Some key areas to stretch out for gardening are your back, neck and knees as these are the areas that carry most of the workload.
Know Your Limits in Lifting
There are plenty of items around the garden that are very heavy such as large pots, bags of soil and fertilizer, containers of vegetables and more. While everything may need to be moved at some point, you need to know the limits of how much you can lift to prevent straining your back and neck and possibly developing a hernia. If you can't lift heavier items in the garden, get someone to help you or find a method of transporting the item simpler. For example, instead of trying to lift up a large pot of soil by hand, you could use an appliance dolly.
Deal with Weeds in a More Effective Manner
Pulling weeds is one of the biggest contributors to back, knee and neck pain while gardening. It's a lot of effort, crawling around, twisting and bending just to get a few weeds out of your garden, but it's a task that needs to be done. Simply changing how you pull weeds can be a great relief on your body.
Try weeding while sitting instead of on your hands and knees. Being on all fours for too long can put major pressure on your lower back and knees. Get as many weeds as you can while sitting, and lean forward with your elbow resting on your thigh to get weeds that are further away.
Another way of combating weeds in a pain-free way is by putting your plants in a raised bed. When your plant bed is raised, you don't have to lean over as much, nearly everything is within arm's reach and you can even take more strain off of your body by installing a bench or bringing out a stool or chair.
Finally, the best way to deal with weeds is to prevent them from ever growing. Mulching is a great way to keep sunlight and moisture away from areas that weeds love to grow in. Spread about five inches of mulch in areas where you don't have growing plants. Leave a few inches of room between the mulch and the plants to ensure that they still get plenty of moisture and sunlight. This won't prevent every single weed from growing, but it will definitely cut down on weed growth enough for it to not be such a back-breaking chore.
Change It Up
Some tasks may require you to keep pressure on certain parts of your body over extended periods of time. For instance, if you decide to weed the garden, plant some seeds and spread some mulch around the plants, you'll continuously be on your hands and knees for quite a while, putting a lot of stress on your knees, back and neck. However, if you decided to hang some flower baskets after you weeded the garden, it would allow those muscles to get a rest. Hanging those plants will put some strain on your shoulders, so you might want to try watering the plants next to give your shoulders a rest.
Pinpoint the muscles that tend to get the most amount of strain during a gardening task and arrange your work to prevent prolonged periods of stress on certain areas. The more variety in your gardening work, the less pain you'll experience.
A cool glass of water is very refreshing on a warm summer day after some gardening work, but that glass of water is also working to relieve your pain. Your entire body needs proper hydration to work properly, and your muscles are no exception. Staying hydrated helps prevent muscle spasms and cramps, and it helps keep the cartilage in your joints springy and soft to lessen joint pain.
Wear Knee Pads
Knee pads aren't just for sports; they're also great for preventing knee pain from everyday tasks. Since a lot of garden work requires you to kneel in the dirt, getting a good pair of knee pads can be a huge relief. Don't worry about the awkwardness of kneeling on hard-shelled knee pads. You can pick up comfortable and pliable foam knee pads at many home and garden stores.
Use Long-Handled Tools
An alternative to making raised beds is using long-handled gardening tools. Practically any gardening tool can be bought or easily turned into a long-handled tool, and using these tools prevents you from having to lean over, kneel, bend and squat while gardening. Some of these tools can even be helpful in raised beds, such as forks, hoes and shears.
Take Regular Breaks
Gardening puts pressure on various parts of your body that usually don't get exercised in the ways that gardening demands. Taking regular breaks to sit back and relax will help relieve some of this pressure and prevent pain. These breaks are also a great time to have a sip of water and maybe a small snack to keep yourself going.
If you experience pain while working, take a break immediately. Don't try to power through the pain just to get one more task done. This can easily create chronic pain and even permanent damage to your joints and ligaments. If you start experiencing pain, take these opportunities to ice up any sore spots. If it starts to hurt too much, stop gardening altogether for a few hours or the rest of the day.
Remember, pain is your body's way of alerting you to problems within your body. Trying to trudge through your pain to get your gardening done could result in serious and even permanent injuries. Properly utilizing these options can greatly reduce your pain while gardening, but consult a doctor if the pain becomes very severe or chronic.