Staying Healthy in the Garden

Forget baseball, never mind love and romance. When spring arrives, only one thing comes to mind: Tend the garden.

Signs abound: branches show off small blooms, brownish lawns grow greener, and . . . oh no, your back hurts already.

It’s true, as much pleasure as gardening and landscaping offer, tilling dirt and pruning plants also can cause injuries, some of them significant. Tens of thousands of people across the U.S. are hurt in garden and yard accidents each year. Add power tools to the mix and the number climbs into the hundreds of thousands.

But backs seem to be the first area to feel the pain of another season of work in the garden and the yard. Back injuries fall under the heading of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI). Farmers and farm workers run a much greater risk of RSI and back injuries, of course. The number of RSI injuries for that occupation is as high as 40%. Backyard gardeners don’t run as high of a risk, of course, but that can be little consolation if you pull a back muscle just pulling a weed. Human nature being what it is, there are risks. Backs will be sore, leg muscles will ache, hands, too, might cramp.

There is good news, though: Going green in the yard carries many health advantages. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites a long list of the benefits of staying active: People are less prone to obesity or high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death. Activities such as gardening don’t require much time to generate advantages, either. The CDC adds that 2-1/2 hours a week is the baseline to help improve fitness. “Include activities that raise breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles,” advises the CDC website.

So grab your rake, dust off your shovel, and get planting. Just avoid big and little back injuries and broader RSI issues with a few healthy guidelines offered by the doctors and staff at Southwest Spine & Sports. A little prevention can make the difference for a healthy gardening experience:

  • As with any physical activity, warm up first, say 10 minutes, before digging in;
  • Use your legs to help lift anything heavy, not just your back;
  • Wear proper clothing, including long-sleeve t-shirts when appropriate;
  • Use knee pads when working on flower beds or anywhere on the ground;
  • Stretch after garden work and apply ice – but not heat;
  • Wear sunscreen – starting with, at least, SPF 15.

Should garden work, or any physical activity, lead to aches or injuries that need more care, turn to Southwest Spine & Sports first for help.