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Gardening: Weeding Out the Aches and Pains

By DMG Physical & Occupational Therapy

According to the National Gardening Association 35% of households in America (that’s 42 million households!) are growing foods at home or in a community garden. Gardening can be great exercise, is fun and you can do it for your entire life! Plus, gardening promotes a healthy and active lifestyle. Gardening and yard work can improve your endurance and strength while also helping to increase and maintain your flexibility. But did you know that you need to warm-up for gardening and yard work the same way you would if exercising or playing a game of golf? Many gardeners plunge into their projects with great enthusiasm but unconditioned bodies. This doesn’t need to happen!

Warm-Up, Cool-down and Stretching

Warm-up and cool-down are just as important in gardening and yard work as they are for any sport. Try taking a quick walk around the block to get your heart pumping and circulation going. Stretching is also a good way to warm-up – try doing similar movements to the project you are about to tackle. Start with small movements and gradually increase to a full range of motion.

Also, don’t forget to stand up and stretch throughout the day as you are working. Pay special attention to the muscles you have been using!

  • Back
    • For low back strength and flexibility, work on strengthening core muscles, especially your abdominal muscles. There are many excellent strength and stretching exercises you can do to work on your abdominals, extensor muscles, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
  • Arms & Shoulders
    • Many gardening activities require lifting, reaching overhead and digging that can result in strain injuries if your muscles are weak. To prevent this, work on building strength in your biceps, triceps, chest, rotator cuff and forearm muscles.
  • Hands
    • You use your hands extensively when you garden. Do exercises to increase your grip strength for gripping and squeezing. If you are already experiencing pain, focus on exercises to help you relax, lengthen muscles, and increase flexibility.
  • Knees
    • You can easily stress your knees when you squat or push a cart uphill. Strengthening and lengthening your quadriceps is important and there are several exercises to do before, during and after. These can help strengthen your knees, release tension and work on your calves and groin.

Gardening is a great way to get out of the house and be active – but be safe! Repetitive strain injuries are common and can cause a lot of pain.

If you are experiencing chronic pain, please talk to your physician and get a referral for physical therapy or call DMG’s Physical & Occupational Therapy department at 630-967-2000.


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