So here were are again, Christmas and New Year have been and gone, the dark and gloomy days of January and February are behind us and the days are beginning to get longer and warmer. What does Spring hold in store? Hopefully, good weather, pleasurable activities, good heath and no backache. Come the first good weekend of Spring however, the telephone in the Chiropractic clinic on the following Monday will ring incessantly, followed by an influx of suffering patients.
The commonest reason for this is of course over zealous activity in the garden. After being denied access to it by the inclement weather for most of the winter months, most garden owners are keen to get out and tend to its needs. This could include mowing the lawn, clearing patches of ground, clearing weeds and rubbish or even starting that long awaited project that has been planned all winter. Here are a few tips on how to prevent this potential seasonal danger.
The first bit of advice is simply, don’t take on too much. The weeds aren’t going anywhere and it is better to do twenty minutes daily than several hours continuously over the weekend and run the risk of injury, which will prevent you finishing the task in the long run. Stick to the old tried and tested adage… “little and often”.
Secondly, vary your tasks. For example, don’t spend half a day laying paving slabs. Instead, lay a few, take a break and then attempt a different task. This will help avoid repetitive strain to the same parts of your body over a prolonged period. Therefore the different tasks should ideally involve different postures and actions in order to “spread the load”.
Avoid strenuous work first thing in the morning, your musculoskeletal system needs time to “warm up” after sedentary nights sleep and is not at its most flexible first thing in the morning. So avoid jobs that entail heavy lifting and twisting or prolonged bending until later in the day when your muscles, ligaments and discs are better prepared. Start the day instead with some gentle exercise, such as a short brisk walk or at least with the gentle jobs.
Keep your back straight. It’s not always practical depending on the job but where possible, bring the work to you rather than bend to the job. For example if potting plants, work on a high surface that allows your posture to remain upright rather than bending over unnecessarily. Even a slight tilt forward for prolonged periods can increase pressure on your intervertebral discs to a severe degree. When digging, try to use tools with handles of sufficient length to enable you to keep a straighter back. When lifting, bend those knees with a straight back and hold the object close to you, simple advice that we all know this but are often slow to practice.
Finally, don’t ignore pain. There is no smoke without fire and if you develop pain whilst or after gardening your body is trying to tell you it’s had enough. If you battle through any pain just to get the job finished, you could be at risk of developing a significant injury. Those of us who suffer regularly the day after gardening probably haven’t followed the aforementioned advice but may feel they get away with it, as the symptoms are short lived. If, however, this happens on a regular basis then it usually means a weakness is developing in the affected region which will invariably catch up with you when you least expect it, the classic back “going” after a cough or sneeze being a good example of the straw that broke the camels back.
When performed sensibly, gardening can be a very rewarding and pain free hobby or even occupation. If, however you belong to the eternally green-fingered fraternity, then please try to take as much care of your back as you do your garden, it can be a lot harder to put right!
Ivan Danne, B.Sc., D.C., M.C.A.I.
Doctor of Chiropractic
If you require further advice on back care and spinal health, please feel free to contact Ivan at Blackwater Chiropractic (Mallow & Youghal).
Contact: Ivan Danne
Telephone: 022 57715