The benefits of a garden are so much more than providing organic produce and beautiful flowers. Gardening connects your family to the natural cycles of weather, growth and renewal. The environmental impact of transporting and warehousing is reduced, making the world a healthier place to live. A backyard or community garden makes meals more personal, fun and interesting for families and friends. And the movement required with gardening adds exercise to your daily life, improving your flexibility and increasing your strength, endurance and cardiovascular health. In developing and maintaining a garden, here are a number of important spinal health tips to keep you digging in the dirt safely:
Warm up your muscles before working in the garden. Stretch the major muscle groups of the body to avoid injury or being sore the next day. Do your lighter work first and save the heavier tasks for later to prevent strenuous activity on unused muscles and joints.
Use the correct tools to avoid straining your neck or back such as ones with long handles to avoid too much forward or sideways bending.
Take breaks following periods of bending, pushing and pulling while raking and hoeing. Stay hydrated during these breaks—especially while working in the sun. If working for long hours or if it is particularly hot, coconut water is an excellent drink to replenish your system with electrolytes. Wear a hat and natural sunscreen to help avoid heat exhaustion or sun stroke in the summer months.
Use a wheelbarrow for heavier loads rather than attempting to carry them. While carrying smaller loads, keep the weight close and centred to your body.
Rely on proper ergonomics to help you stay in the garden longer such as kneeling instead of bending and limiting overhead work to five minute intervals.
Hire a professional or find assistance if a task seems too much for your body. This is better than overexerting yourself.
Relax at the end of the day. An Epsom salt bath can be very therapeutic as well as icing or arnica cream to relieve inflammation from the day’s activity.
There are so many reasons for having a garden. It helps you to stay healthy in body and mind and leaves you with an undeniable external accomplishment of physical nourishment throughout the season.
Dr. Stephanie Bonn, DC, is a family chiropractor with a multidisciplinary practice in Yaletown. She has an integrative approach, incorporating exercise and nutritional recommendations for optimal health and wellness. As an active mother of three, she is an advocate for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Please contact her with any inquiries at Coco Chiropractic Wellness, www.cocochiro.com.