Self-Care Pain Relief for Gardeners

By Siobhan Van Lanen, BA, LMT, CYI

It’s estimated that 84 million American households engage in gardening activities.  In Spring and Summer, avid gardeners in Oregon crawl out of the clouds into a flora-centered frenzy.  Gardeners feel the muscle and joint aches that manifest with the repetitive postures and movements while weeding, planting, picking and pruning their plants and flowers.  Gardening is a form of exercise that deserves as much care and precautions as any other work-out activity.

Many avid green thumbs enjoy the physical exercise and therapeutic, calming qualities that gardening offers. Unfortunately, many are challenged with various physical limitations and injuries that restrict the frequency and duration of gardening time. An important factor to consider is that many of us in cooler climates garden primarily during the warmer months.  This means that gardening isn’t an activity we engage in all year, therefore, we need to condition our bodies for gardening season to prevent injury and over-use.  You can ease your aches and pains and practice safe postures.  Set aside at least 10 minutes for stretches and self-care massage and you’ll find that you build physical endurance while enjoying an activity you’re passionate about.

Warm-up stretches are key to enhancing your gardening enjoyment.  Start with a few gentle, slow neck and shoulder rolls.  Breathe into the muscles and focus on letting go of tension on your exhale.  Extend your arms behind you overhead, bring your shoulder blades in towards your spine, interlace your fingers, and lean forward with legs outstretched into a wide-angle standing forward bend.  This lengthens and releases stiffness in the lower back, gluteus, hamstrings, and flexor muscles on the front of your arms. The flexors are the primary arm muscles that get over-worked from lifting, pulling, and reaching actions.  Roll back up slowly and gently, into a standing position starting from the lower back while you take your arms down to your sides. When you roll upwards, engage your core and gluteal muscles to prevent over-use of your spinal muscles.   Pause and breathe.  Then bend forward again with a flat back, arms extended behind you.   Practice this a few times mindfully concentrating on your body sensations.

It’s also beneficial to practice torso side and back bends, slow twists, hip circles and wrist rolls.  Protect your forearm muscles from over-use by moving into flexion, extension, pronation and supination.  I also recommend self-care massage on a daily basis, using tennis and/or reflexology balls and foam and/or rubber rollers.  They are a beneficial tool for managing pain by using your leverage and body weight to apply direct pressure to the back, forearm, and hip muscles.

Safe postures during gardening are essential for your wellbeing.  Think of your gardening as a workout. Change postures frequently and take plenty of breaks for an hour or so.  Lay horizontal with a pillow on the backs of your lower thighs to support your lower back and allow your spinal muscles to rest.  Drink plenty of water.  The longest duration of gardening time to avoid burn-out is 2-3 hours.   An example of a good posture is alternating your legs on the lunge pose with one forearm resting on your thigh in a supportive position while the other hand is digging in the dirt.

Gardeners bring so much beauty to the world.  Stretching and self-massage before and after gardening will help manage any existing pain and prevent injury.  Correcting your posture during gardening will do the same.  Enjoy the sensory experience of gardening while honoring your body.

 

Siobhan Van Lanen holds a Bachelors of Arts in Social Science and is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Yoga/Pilates/Dance Instructor, and free-lance writer.  Her weekly classes are M/W/F 7am Yoga/Pilates and Sun. 4pm Pilates/Dance.  Siobhan is offering a Couples Pain and Stress Relief Workshop Sat. June 3rd from  1-2:30 PM in Studio B.  Members: $25 per couple. Non-Members: $35 per couple.  Rejuvenate together while learning effective techniques for healing and relaxation; combining partner yoga, bodywork, acupressure, and aromatherapy.   Register at Timberhill Athletic Club or call 541-757-8559.  24 hour cancellation notice is required to receive a refund. 

Photo Credit – Trusty Joe https://trustyjoe.com/

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