Article by the Drummond Team
With Spring finally upon us and gardens everywhere needing a little TLC, it might be helpful to try our 5 easy tricks to avoid the unwanted aches after a long day lifting and shifting in the garden.
Something that is often forgotten, or not understood to begin with, is how to squat well. When lifting, make sure you knees track straight over your toes, and keep you back straight / chest up. You want to use as much leg strength as possible when lifting, so letting your knees drop inwards, or your upper body to slump forwards, will quickly disengage the muscles you are trying to use!
Vary Your Jobs
We’ve all caught ourselves doing it. We get started on a job and don’t stop until it’s completely finished. This shows a great work ethic, but we can sometimes pay the price afterwards due to the number of hours we have spent using repetitive movements.
Try having a couple of jobs on the go at the same time. For example, planting some pots, raking the flower beds and mowing the lawn. All of these jobs involve repetitive movements in their own right, but they all include very different movements utilising different muscles.
Rather than potting plants for 90 minutes, then moving on to raking the garden for an hour, finishing with 90 minutes of lawn mowing, try doing each job for 20-30 minutes at a time and alternating. This will break up the repetition and give one group of muscles time to recover a little while you move on to the next job.
Hamstring / Gluteal Activation
Two muscle groups that can get quite restricted as a result of our typical daily activities, can predispose us to more problems when we are outside. Our hamstrings and Gluteals, extend our hips and as a result can help out our lower back in certain movements. When kneeling and leaning forwards, your Gluteals will be responsible for holding you up. Without adequate activation, you may find the strain on your lower back increases.
Try massaging these activation points to ‘wake-up’ your gluteals before gardening.
Prepping for Pruning
In order to work overhead, your body requires good mobility through the thoracic spine and ribcage to reach a fully extended position. This position allows better range for the shoulder blade to move through and reduces the stress placed on the shoulder joint. It’s an area of movement that we see regularly limited in our patients, and it can lead to back, neck or shoulder pain when ignored. Releasing the connective tissues on the front of the body can assist in allowing freedom of movement into extension, so try massaging the areas outlined below before attacking that tree with the shears.
No matter how hard you try, you will probably notice a few aches post-gardening. Mobilising these areas before they become stiff and problematic can sometimes help reduce the discomfort. Once you have got back indoors, try the following warm-down:
- Mobilise your back. Lay on your back, knee bent to 90 degrees and feet rested on floor. Rock your knees left and right towards the ground.
- Stretch your Calf Muscles. Facing a wall, leaning against it with both hands in front of you. Step back with one foot, keeping back leg straight and heel on ground, push hips forwards to bring on stretch in the lower leg.
- Mobilise your Quads. Standing on one leg, pull other ankle up towards your backside, keeping knees close together.
- Shoulder Shrugs. Keep your shoulder blades moving. Relax your arms at your sides. Complete 5 circles forwards and backwards, slowly, with your shoulder blades.