Gardening truly is a labor of love. It’s rewarding, good for you, and gives you beautiful outdoor spaces, but it sure does hurt sometimes. From knee pain to back pain to cuts and scratches, gardening just hurts. It doesn’t have to be that bad, though. Use the following 7 strategies for pain-free gardening to take at least some of the discomfort out of your favorite hobby:
1. Stretch and warm up first. Working in the garden is like a sport, and in any sport, warming up is essential to minimizing injury risk. Before heading out to the garden, do some basic stretches and warm up with simple exercises. Some good ones to try are crunches and planks for the core, squats for the legs, and yoga poses for flexibility and balance.
2. Take breaks. When you have a chore to get done, you just want to get it done. But spending three hours in a crouched position pulling weeds is going to cause pain, no matter how fit you are. Take breaks from gardening every 30 minutes or so to walk around and stretch. Or, just alternate your activities: pull weeds for 15 minutes, water for 30 minutes, then go back to weeding.
3. Padding is your friend. Don’t be a hero and spend the day kneeling on the sidewalk. Get knee cushions to reduce impact on your joints. A padded garden seat is also useful for your rear end and will give you a better position to be in than crouching or squatting.
4. Choose the right tools. Ergonomics are big these days as it becomes clear that repetitive motions or sitting for too long with poor body position can cause serious pain and even damage. Look for gardening tools with ergonomic design so that when you use them your body is in a more neutral position for less pain. Choose tools that are the right size for you as well, which makes a big difference.
5. Watch your posture. It’s easy to stoop or round your back and shoulders when spending so long in the garden. If you can focus on your posture, and keep it proper as you work, you’ll have less pain in the long run. Keep your shoulders back and your spine straight. Focus on using your core muscles to keep you in this healthier position.
6. Lift heavy objects the right way. It’s all too easy to acquire back pain and acute injuries by lifting something the wrong way. When picking up big bags of mulch, potted trees and shrubs, and heavy watering cans, squat and lift with your legs, not your back. Use a back brace if necessary.
7. Strengthen your core. Gardening itself is a great fitness activity, but if you add in some additional strength training, you will have a more pain-free experience. Work on your abdominal and core muscles a few times a week with moves like planks and crunches. A stronger core helps you move better and hold your body in neutral, pain-free positions for longer periods of time.