Tis’ the Season to Garden
Gardening season is short in Canada, and as chiropractors we often see patients coming into our office who have been a little overzealous, particularly in the spring when so many of us are just itching to get our hands in the dirt.
It can be quite appealing to go out into the garden with a morning coffee with the intention of just having a look around – only to have that ‘look’ turn into a full on work session. It is important to warm up before gardening – make sure your muscles are warm and that you have done some activity to increase your heart rate prior to starting work in the garden.
From shrubs with large root balls to bags of top soil – many of the items we handle during a typical gardening session can be heavy and/or awkward to lift. It is important to remember safe lifting practices. The adage ‘keep your nose between your toes’ is a good way to remember to avoid twisting when lifting. Turn your body so that it is square to what you are trying to lift. If something is too heavy to lift safely on your own – ask family or neighbours for help.
Given that the gardening months can be hot and humid – it is important to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that our thirst mechanism does not actually keep up with the body’s requirement for water. If you are planning a gardening session, make sure you drink plenty of water prior to starting as well as during your session.
From Canadian Tire to Lee Valley and many places in between, there is no shortage of places to purchase devices to assist us in the pursuit of a garden oasis. Simple things like kneeling pads protect our knees. Tools like ‘the claw’ enable us to turn soil without being in a flexed posture that can cause low back pain. Long handed weeders allow us to pull out weeds without being in bent over posture for prolonged periods of time. However, as with anything that purports to be ‘ergonomically designed’ it is important to realize that just because the packaging claims ergonomic superiority, this does not mean that it is inherently better for you. ‘Caveat emptor’ (buyer beware) is an important adage to remember.
To keep our gardens in tip top shape – from digging in mulch in the spring, to thinning out hostas in the summer, and to raking leaves in the fall – we need to be in tip top shape. Being mindful of some simple concepts like those listed above can mean the difference between a garden season spent nursing aches and pains on the sidelines to one enjoying the beauty that nature has provided –with a little bit of help from our green thumbs.
Dr. Janet D’Arcy
Clinician, CMCC Campus Clinic, 6100 Leslie Street, Toronto, ON
Assistant Professor, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College