Spring is in full swing, and as the weather warms up and leaves turn green, many people will spend more time outside planting bulbs, mowing the lawn and pulling weeds. Gardening can provide a great workout, but with all the bending, twisting, reaching and pulling, your body may not be conditioned for the types of exercise you're exposed to while gardening.
Gardening can be enjoyable, but it is important to stretch your muscles before reaching for your gardening tools. Your back, upper legs, shoulders and wrists are all major muscle groups affected while using your green thumb. A warm-up and cool-down period are just as important in gardening as they are for any other physical activity, and performing simple stretches during these periods can help prevent and alleviate injuries, pain and stiffness.
For all types of stretching, it's important to remember to not bounce or jerk your body, and stretch as far and as comfortably as you can. Do not follow the "no pain, no gain" rule. Stretching should not be painful.
While sitting, prop your heel on a stool or step, keeping the knees straight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh or the hamstring muscle. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Do this once more and repeat with the other leg.
Stand up, hold onto something for balance, and grab the front of your ankle from behind. Pull your heel toward your buttocks and hold the position for 15 seconds. Do this again and repeat with the other leg.
While standing, weave your fingers together and extend your arms above your head with your palms up. Lean to one side for 10 seconds, then to the other. Repeat this stretch three times.
Wrap your arms around yourself, giving yourself a hug, and rotate to one side, stretching as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for 10 seconds and reverse. Repeat two or three times.
Finally, be aware of your body's technique, form and posture while gardening. Kneel, don't bend, and alternate your stance and movements frequently.
If you already feel muscle aches and pains and did not complete the warm-up and cool-down stretches, there are ways to alleviate the discomfort. You can apply a cold pack for short periods of time on the area of pain for the first 48 hours after the onset of pain, and apply a heat pack after 48 hours.
If the pain persists, consider consulting your chiropractor. A doctor of chiropractic uses spinal manipulation and other non-drug approaches to treat pain and injuries, reducing or eliminating the need for pain medications. A chiropractor can also show you additional stretches to perform in order to prevent the type of pain you're experiencing.
For more information on prevention and wellness, or to find a doctor of chiropractic near you, visit ACA's website at www.acatoday.org/patients.