By Donna Wagstaff, M.D.
Family Practice Specialist
St. Anthony’s Medical Center
Ah, spring! It’s the time of year when those with green thumbs grab their shovels and potting soil from the shed and get to work making the world, or at least the garden, a prettier place.
There are many benefits to gardening. It stimulates the senses, provides emotional expression, and releases stress. Gardening also provides physical activity that improves endurance, flexibility and strength.
Unfortunately, every rose has its thorn, and gardening has many risks along with the benefits. Over-eager gardeners who dig right in without first warming up their muscles can experience aches, pains and stiffness – or worse. Gardening injuries vary widely, from simple blisters and sore muscles to debilitating backaches and repetitive strain injuries.
Here are some tips to protect yourself while gardening:
- Stretch your arm, back, neck and leg muscles before you begin, and take stretching breaks.
- When lifting, place your feet apart for good balance, bend your knees instead of your back, then lift gradually by straightening your knees.
- Don’t strain yourself by lifting overly heavy objects.
- Always keep the load as close to you as possible.
- Turn by moving your feet, not twisting.
- Use long-handled tools so you don’t have to bend, and work at ground level by resting on both knees and your free hand. Move often so you don’t have to reach.
Watch this video of Maureen Blackburn, a physical therapist and spine specialist at St. Anthony’s Medical Center, offering tips for preventing back injury while doing common garden activities: http://bit.ly/xwSMaX.
Dr. Donna Wagstaff, a family practitioner with a special interest in women’s health, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at Telegraph Road Family Medicine, 4438 Telegraph Road, 314-543-5996. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.