11 Tips to Help Keep Your Gardening Pain Free

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
June 20, 2020
11 Tips to Help Keep Your Gardening Pain Free

The number of Americans growing their own food has risen 200 percent since 2008, according to the National Gardening Association. Harvesting your own fruits and vegetables is often more affordable than buying organic produce and healthier than packaged foods. Gardening also is a great workout that can be very relaxing.

Of course, it has a downside – muscles soreness. Some gardeners will even describe it as pain. But if you’re interested in gardening (or yard work), don’t let this snag deter you. There are some simple steps you can take before, during and after your gardening session to help keep it pain free. 

Before Gardening

Gardening is a physical activity, so treat it as you would any other type of work out by preparing for your gardening session.

Warm up by taking a 10-minute walk. A warmup delivers oxygen to muscles, preparing them for physical activity. It also raises your core body temperature, making it easier for muscles and tendons to move and lowering the risk of injury. 

Stretch out your major muscle groups. This helps your muscles remain pliable and less prone to injury as you garden. Here are some few stretches that work well for gardening.

Hydrate by drinking plenty of water before gardening. Replacing water lost from sweating helps prevent dehydration that can lead to muscle cramping, especially in hot weather. 

While Gardening

Pulling weeds and lifting heavy bags of soil raise your risk for injuring your back and knees. While gardening, keep these tips in mind.

Limit unnecessary reaching and bending. You can do this by using longer-handled tools and walking over to items you need instead of reaching and bending for them, according to Marshfield Clinic Health System.   

Use wheelbarrows. Lifting and carrying heavy plants and bags of soil will certainly give you a workout, but it can also injure your joints. 

Lift with your knees, not your back. If you must lift a heavy object, Very Well Health recommends to first stabilize your body by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Then bend your knees while keeping your back straight, firmly grip the object and hold it close to your body. Keep your spine straight as you straighten your knees to raise the object.

Kneel on one knee, not both. When you’re planting or weeding, you may tend to kneel on both knees. However, try to keep one leg in a 90-degree angle with your foot on the ground to stabilize your low back, according to Health Partners.

Take breaks. Staying in one position too long can cause aches and pains. When you begin feeling tired, switch positions or walk around. And of course, if you’re fatigued and sore, end your gardening session.

After Gardening

Again, treat your gardening session like a workout, taking the same post-exercise steps.  

Do a little post-gardening movement. Walk around and/or lightly stretch to release some muscle tightness.

Rehydrate. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to muscle soreness. 

Apply heat or ice to sore areas. If you’re very sore and have swollen muscles, apply ice to an area. However, if you’re just a little tight, try a heating pad.

If you’re new to gardening, talk to your doctor (and chiropractor and/or physical therapist if you have one). Spinal issues such as herniations and arthritis can cause pain during and after gardening if you’re not careful how your spine is positioned. Your healthcare provider can guide you as to the safest positions for you.

Don’t have a doctor? Consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that includes physical activity. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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