Spring Has Sprung - Gardening Begun - 5 Health Tips to Prevent Injury

Many of you become more active in the spring and summer. My Chiropractic office sees more patients complaining of injuries and strains as a result of yard work, gardening, or outdoor recreation like bicycling and baseball.

My husband and I enjoy gardening. We promote Permaculture that is permanent culture, a revolution designed as gardening. Permaculture ethics include:

Care of the People

Care of the Planet

Sharing the Surplus with Others

Gardening is not only a very relaxing and productive hobby, but we also enjoy watching the progress each year as the plants and flowers continue to fill in the landscape. We get excited when it is time to start the seeds for the greens and radishes. We planted the first year we moved in, so the asparagus is ready and we get to pick it for the first time this year. The garlic that we planted in the fall is coming in vigorously. Today, thunderstorms are passing through the Midwest. That means the potatoes we planted are getting a good watering.

I have been starting to see the farmers come in on rainy days. They have been busy cultivating in preparation for planting. Riding around in tractors with your head twisted around for hours at a time will cause neck strain and pain. Iowa farmers grow corn and soybeans. Many farmers in Iowa have huge farms with thousands of acres-but size does not matter when it comes to the pain generated by planting. We like diversity and on our land, we are expanding the number of fruits and vegetables that we grow on our two acres each year. It is a lot of work, but we love the fresh real food that we get to eat.

True, gardening is not always relaxing and getting out in the garden after a winter of inactivity can put you into a world of hurt. If you happened to overextend yourself or injure yourself, it will take some time to feel better and to get back to the garden. Here are some tips to prevent that pain:

1. When using a rake or hoe, remember to pull it directly toward you instead of twisting your body by pulling it from the side. This twisting motion can cause back strain.

2. Consider investing in a stool or a bench so that you can sit to garden instead of bending over at the waist and straining your back. You can flip over a five- gallon bucket on which to sit. Raised bed gardening can help to reduce back strain.

3. Engage (suck-in) your abdominal muscles when you lift your bag of mulch or start pushing the wheel barrow. Strong Abs will prevent damage to the back.

4. Use a tool to dig out a weed rather than xanking or pulling with a twisting or pulling motion. You are more likely to get the whole root of that dandelion if you dig it out so it won't return and you won't injure your neck or back.

5. When you come inside from the garden or the ball game, if you feel like you may have strained or pulled something, use ice. You can ice the sore areas for 10 minutes every hour. This can nip that pain right in the bud. If you use ice for longer than 10 to 15 minutes, you may actually irritate the sore areas. Using heat on injuries can actually slow healing.

While it is true that gardening is not always physically relaxing, if you observe the five suggestions, it can be much less physically demanding on your body and, as always with nature, spiritually rewarding.

Valorie Prahl, DC is an experienced gardener, health care provider, nutritionist, and mom. If you want to learn more about permaculture, raised bed gardening, composting, cold frames, rain barrels or greenhouses visit her website at http://www.createpermaculture.com. Her site offers information to live more sustainably, garden design, and products that will help you create a healthy productive permaculture garden.