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Chicago, Illinois 60630-2431

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Gardening is an activity that brings pleasure to many adults. Drive through any neighborhood and you will see people energetically planting, trimming, raking and mulching their gardens. Often as we try to whip our gardens into shape we underestimate our physical abilities. Later that evening or the next day we feel pain and stiffness in our neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and knees. Is it possible to enjoy the fruits, flowers and vegetables of your labor and minimize the discomfort or pain that you feel afterwards? The answer is yes, especially if you use the following tips:
1.Treat gardening as a sport.
Warm up by stretching the most frequently used muscles in
your body, as you would before a sports activity.
2.Carefully plan how much time and realistically how much
you can accomplish. Most injuries occur from doing too
much too quickly.
3.Keep in mind good body mechanics. Carefully lift heavy
bags of dirt and mulch by keeping your back straight,
bending at the knees and lifting with your legs while keeping
the bag as close to your body as possible. When digging
with a shovel, lift the dirt and turn your entire body to empty
it. Avoid lifting, twisting and throwing the dirt especially if
the ground is wet or the soil is clay.
4.Rotate activities to use different muscle groups. Frequently
changing your activities helps to minimize the repetitive
stress placed on the joints of your spine and extremities and
the adjacent muscles.
5.Use a cushion, stool or small bench when weeding. This
helps to reduce the stress placed on your knees and spine.
6.Take frequent breaks. Every 30 minutes, take a few minutes
to stretch, get a drink of water and enjoy your efforts.
7.Stop gardening if you feel pain or become fatigued. Apply
ice to affected areas for 15 to 20 minute periods to help
reduce inflammation. DO NOT USE HEAT- -it will increase
the inflammatory process. If pain persists, call your
8.For people with chronic pain, use adaptive tools. People
with low back pain and knee pain can turn to platform
gardening using an elevated planting bed to help avoid
bending and kneeling.

Adapted from an article by Dr. William Madosky, Richmond Heights, Missouri in Parish Nurse Perspectives Volume 5, Issue 2. Dr. Madosky gave permission for use by parish nurses.

Prayer: Dear father in heaven, we thank you for providing us with fresh air & sunshine, for the ability to work the soil and delight in the fruits of our labor. Give us the common sense to care for our bodies as we care for our gardens. May we always remember your gracious love for us in this Easter season. We praise you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jane Geske, R.N., C. Parish Nurse Coordinator
Lutheran Home & Services 847/368-7467