The key is to not go at it like a bull at a gate, but to pace yourself (regardless of your age) and pause during repetitive tasks to let joints and muscles rest. Every fifteen minutes is a good target but don’t leave it more than half an hour before RESTING and performing the OPPOSITE movement for a short while.
Hands & Wrists:
Extended pruning with secateurs is a classic cause of RSI (repetitive strain injury).
While pruning or clipping overhead your shoulders will take most of the strain. Just pause for a few moments and roll your shoulders down and back in a circular motion for one minute. Apart from providing rest for the muscles, you’ll also relieve those joints and tendons temporarily. Remain standing tall during the exercise and keep your chin in.
While digging, raking or bending to weed, stop and arch your spine and shoulders backwards with hands pushing your pelvis forwards. It’s a classic for very good reason as it allows the gelatinous content of squashed discs to revert to balance again.
I see so many patients suffering from lower back pain from gardening, yet this small exercise can prevent so much discomfort.
Many gardening tasks involve kneeling and even if you’re wearing kneepads to protect the front of your knees, the knee joint and surrounding tendons needs rest and opposite action too. So stand up and give them a rub and a wiggle (that’s a technical term for repetitive re-traction by the way).
Many mature gardeners will suffer some occasional joint pain, whether it be arthritic or rheumatic and many will avoid outdoor activities at these times. But all joints benefit from movement as it stimulates joint lubrication which in turn provides the nutrition for the joint linings and cuffs.
People who immobilise tetchy joints do themselves no favours as the joint will become stiff and produce even more pain. If you have painful joints and decide to do some gardening then warming up first is all the more important as this will minimise the initial discomfort.
But, as with all things to do with health, all movements should be performed in moderation. Stop if sharp pain persists and consult a doctor.
Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA. This article appeared originally on www.gardensonline.com.au