Physio: Lower back, hip and knee injuries prevalent

By fall, many gardeners believe they have built up all the strength they need to tackle end-of-season tasks.

Once again autumn is upon us in the sunny Okanagan, and to gardeners that can mean only one thing—the dreaded fall clean-up.

After a summer spent harvesting and keeping things blooming, many gardeners believe they have built up all the strength they need to tackle the end-of-season tasks.

What most people forget is that putting the yard away for winter often involves different types of movements and heavier work than most of their summer gardening routines.

In our clinics at this time of year we are inundated with an onslaught of low-back, hip and knee injuries stemming from putting our gardens to bed.

Here are some tips to (hopefully) keep you out of the clinic and healthy in the garden this Fall gardening season.

It is true that gardening can be great exercise, but you have to remember, the same good habits apply for gardening as they do for other forms of strenuous activity.

First and foremost, to be safe you must do a few light stretches and exercises to warm up the muscles and joints.

Second, once you’re out there, try to vary your activities so that you’re not repeating any one motion or position for more than half an hour at a time.

This will limit the potential of repetitive strain injuries like Tennis Elbow, and will decrease the compressive stresses on your spine often associated with prolonged flexed or bent over positions.

If you’re working at ground level, kneel or sit rather than bending and lifting from the waist.

There are many assisted kneeling devices at gardening stores or a cheaper alternative might be to sit on an upside-down weeding bucket.

Always remember to change position frequently, as most gardening injuries tend to originate with prolonged bent over activities.

If you find yourself raking and shoveling, remember to move your feet when you want to change the direction in which you are lifting, rather than twisting aggressively through your low back. It is also a very good idea to alternate from on side to the other.

For lifting heavy loads, keep your feet shoulder width apart, bend at your knees, and tighten your abdominals or “core” to keep your midsection strong as you take up the weight.

Last but not least, don’t forget to hydrate. We tend to forget our water bottles once the temperature drops, but keeping hydrated can help keep tissues elastic and more resistant to strain and cramping.

Putting your garden to bed for the winter can be a sad reminder of the shorter days to come, but those days will be much more enjoyable if you’re not laid up with an injury to your back, neck, or shoulders.

An afternoon in the garden can cause pain to flare in unexpected places so take preventive measures, and talk to your physiotherapist about ways to avoid and treat garden-related injuries.