Gardening Safely in Calgary | National Spine Care

Gardening Safely

Wanna Know The Secret to Gardening Safely?

We all know our own Reva Schreur is an awesome massage therapist, but not many know she is also the gardening safely guru.

So we asked her to share her best horticultural (Yup, we use 5-syllable words here) stuff with us. If you have or want to grow a green thumb, this stuff is gold…

National Gardening Safely Exercise Day

“Spring has Sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where my weeding bucket is?”

Did you know that June 6 was National Gardening Exercise Day? Well, we did so let’s get to it! Let’s ask Reva how to get our gardening game on without needing a bottle of Ibuprofen or a visit to the clinic the next day (although we always love to see you!)

Take it away Reva!

Hi everyone…it’s finally gardening season! Given the last couple of weeks, I’m wondering why they call it “Sunny Alberta”? It’s no secret that here in Calgary, our season seems so short. We always have so much yard work and so many garden plans that it’s easy to overdo it and suffer from unnecessary aches and pains. Nothing like flaring up your back, knees, shoulders, <Insert Body Part Here> to dampen your gardening spirit and hinder your enjoyment of your backyard.

Good News! It doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some easy tips and tricks I’ve found that will go a long way to preventing pain and injury so you can get your gardening safely game ramped up into high gear and get the most out of our growing season. Shall we do this?

Reva Scheuer | Massage Therapist

Gotta Move

Staying static in one position for prolonged periods is a killer. Think about hours spent kneeling, bent over planting or weeding. Those poor knees and back.

Here is the fix:

Changing your position and the level you are working at frequently will ease overuse pains and allow you to garden longer.

Do These Three Things:

  1. Try switching it up. Alternate from kneeling to standing.
  2. Bend from the hips and knees
  3. Avoid over-reaching and make sure you lift or carry heavier loads close to your body

Tools Make Jobs Easier

So, you’ve spent a lot of money on some fancy gardening tools, right? (Have you been to Lee Valley lately?) What are your favourite gardening tool(s)? Lawnmower, Rake, Hoe, Mulcher, Shears, Sythe, Cucumber straightener (better look that one up).

Let us know in the comments what your favourite tool or tools are.

The theory is that tools are designed to make our lives easier. PRO TIP: Use your garden tools properly. 🙄

Sounds silly but just being a bit more mindful of how you use your tools will reap huge rewards in the pain and injury prevention department. Oh ya, and don’t forget, gardening is way more enjoyable with cool tools!

Do This: Avoid overextending. Use the tools close to your body, making sure to bend at the hips and knees and not at the waist. Also, switch up which side you doing things on. If you are raking, switch which side you are raking on every few minutes. Same idea when you are shovelling dirt. Watch repetitive movements like always twisting or bending to one side.

Shock Your Neighbour

We’re not talking about clothing-optional gardening practices here (there are some things you just can’t un-see).

Periodic stretching of your low back and shoulders throughout your gardening session, but especially after you finish for the day will save you tons of money in our clinic.

Do This and let us know what reaction you get from your neighbor 😛

Right there on your front lawn, do some of these easy stretches. (Dare ya, Double Dog Dare Ya)

Cat/Cow cycles

These are both excellent ways to release those tired, achy muscles. PRO TIP: Cat/Cow are meant to be slow, gentle movements that take your back through its normal range of motion. Don’t force the end ranges.

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your back flat and your chin tucked so your neck is neutral
  2. Drop your stomach towards the floor while you extend your neck and look up to the ceiling. Don’t force the end-range! Just go to where you feel a gentle stretch and hold it there for two to three seconds
  3. Reverse the position by rounding your back towards the ceiling and dropping your head towards the floor. Hold that position for two to three seconds.
  4. Cycle through steps two and three for a total of ten repetitions, being mindful to breathe and relax into the end-ranges
  5. Think about whether your spirit animal may be either a cat or a cow 😛
Calgary gardening safely back pain relief 1 | National Spine Care
Calgary Gardening Safely back pain relief 2 | National Spine Care
Calgary Gardening Safely back pain relief 3 | National Spine Care

Back Extensions

Gardening typically involves a lot of bending forward so let’s offset that with some gentle back extension movement. Try a sphynx pose or a cobra movement.

  1. Begin by lying flat. on your stomach
  2. Come up on your elbows like you are going to read a book Be mindful that there is no pinching pain or discomfort in your low back! It is OK to feel stiffness but no pain
  3. Hold that position for two to three minutes
  4. Think about whether your spirit animal might have morphed into a sphynx? 😎
Calgary Gardening Safelyback pain relief 4 | National Spine Care
Calgary Gardening Sfaely back pain relief 5 | National Spine Care

Spoiler alert: Did you happen to notice the cool, Yeti lumberjack socks? Not your average Lulu Lemon gear eh? 🙄

  1. Same starting position lying flat on your stomach
  2. Push up with your arms while leaving your tummy on the ground. Look up at the ceiling
  3. Hold that end-range position for two to three seconds Again, be mindful you do not feel any pinching pain in your low back. Also, check in to see how your arms and shoulders feel about things
  4. Lower back down to lay flat on your stomach
  5. Repeat ten times, making sure you continue to breathe through each cycle
  6. Revisit the spirit animal question to see if you think you might be a cobra? 😯

Calgary Gardening Safelyback pain relief 4 | National Spine Care
Calgary Gardening Safely back pain relief 6

Child's Pose

  1. Start on your hands and knees with a flat back and chin tucked (neck in neutral)
  2. Gently sit back onto your heels while allowing your hands and arms to extend out in front of you
  3. Hold that position for thirty seconds. Be mindful of your knees and hips. There should be no pain as you bend them. Only go as far as they are telling you to.
  4. Return back to the hands-and-knees starting position
  5. You can repeat that two or three times
  6. Don’t bother considering if your spirit animal is a child. That would be weird. But it is OK to know that gardening awakens your inner child! 😆
Calgary gardening safely back pain relief 1 | National Spine Care
Calgary Gardening Safely back pain relief 8 | National Spine Care

Protect Yourself

Important for any outdoor summer activity is adequate hydration. Drink plenty of water, wear a head covering, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Be sure to hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds…a minute is always better. This allows time for the muscle fibres to disengage from each other and the stretch to be more effective. Working muscles get tight and sore. Injuries happen when those tight muscles have to move quickly so make slow, controlled and gentle movements. Breath into the stretch and you’ll soon feel that nice release of tension.

Stop And Smell The Roses (or cucumbers?)

It can’t be all about the work. Take time throughout your day to gaze around your gardens and purely enjoy what you have created. Gardening works our body and we’re outside in nature, which gives us lots of physical benefits. But wait, there’s more! Being outside in nature gives us spiritual and emotional benefits.

What more could you ask for from an activity? Health habits that benefit the mind, body and spirit will keep us all gardening and make our time spent outside in the fresh air and the dirt priceless!

Now, back to work you go…or maybe kick back with a beverage and enjoy your beautiful yard and garden!

Time for some shameless, self-promotion. Contact me to book in for a massage to keep those muscles relaxed and ready to get back out in the garden. I’ll make a deal with you…I’ll work on your muscles to get them ready and we can share some gardening stories and secret green thumb tips and tricks.

Happy Gardening! Now go dig in the dirt!!! 😀 

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