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Enjoy mulching, pulling weeds, getting your hands dirty? But, oh, my back!

Posted by on in Health
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As we age, we begin to notice changes in our physical appearance as well as in what type of recreational activity appeals to us. 15 or 20 years ago, a night of dancing would easily be on the agenda for a fun Friday night, but now a quiet evening with good friends and good food is more appealing.

One of the activities I have come to truly enjoy over the years is gardening. I can spend hours planting new flowers or laying fresh mulch without even realizing how much time has passed. But, while it may be enjoyable to spend hours gardening, it isn't enjoyable when you wake up stiff and sore the next morning because you neglected to protect your muscles and joints.

Regardless of what type of recreational activity you enjoy, it is always important to remember to protect your body while doing it.  Here are a few tips by the American Physical Therapy Association to make gardening enjoyable while preventing the next day stiffness and soreness:

    * Warm up before you begin. Get your heart rate up by taking a 10-minute walk followed by some stretches for your upper and lower back, neck, arms and legs. Roll your shoulders back in a circular motion and slowly move your head from side to side a few times to loosen up.
    * Don't overdo it. Be mindful of how the body feels. If you experience an aching back or neck, slow down and stretch or stop and switch to a different task.
    * Use a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move tools and heavy planting materials.
    * Don't kneel on both knees. Keep one foot on the ground to give your back more stability. If you have to kneel, use knee pads or a pillow to absorb some of the pressure.
    * Change positions frequently to avoid stiffness or cramping.
    * Practice proper body mechanics. Bend at your knees when you grab something or pull a weed, bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles to avoid straining your back.
    * End your gardening session with a short walk or some light stretching. Take a warm bath or shower to help prevent next-day soreness.
    * If you experience pain, contact your physical therapist.

These are great tips to use when gardening or doing any type of outdoor yard work. If you have a particular activity you really enjoy but your body may not enjoy as much, speak with your physical therapist about any precautions or helpful tips for you to make your activities more enjoyable and less painful on your aching muscles and joints.

Whelan, PT ,the West Palm Beach Physical Therapy Center 

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