If you are a gardener, you probably know you need to use your legs to lift, keep a straight back to dig or rake, balance your weight to shovel. However, you may not know the hazards of crouching forward for a long time. You may not even associate subsequent pain in walking or standing with the gardening you love.
As a dedicated gardener, you might not change position when your focus is to dig just one more plant, or finish the row, or harvest the rest of the vegetables before dark, or before it starts to rain. It is easy to get so lost in the pleasures of gardening that you may neglect the gardener.
The muscles of the back support the upper body when you stand or sit upright. A steady forward bend creates an imbalance of tension, when some muscles tighten and hold too much, others let go so you can stretch forward. What happens next?
Sustained forward bend–Danger!
The discs of your low back act as cushions between the vertebrae. When your body is leaning forward, there may be sustained pressure on the front of your discs and a decrease in circulation. There may also be a tightening of some muscles that normally contract when you bend at the hip, called psoas, or iliopsoas. The small muscles tighten up to brace, and then, when you stand, they may get stretched suddenly, and injured, as some of the small muscle fibers tear. The fluid pressure of a disc may not change quickly enough, as the pressure shifts and it attempts to adjust to what might be a sudden movement after bending forward for a long time.
Pain is postponed?
Your back may not hurt until later, when additional demands are placed are on your low back muscles during walking or digging, driving, or running. These may put demands on the piriformis–an important deep muscle behind the pelvis, that helps with walking and hip movement–and other deep muscles that help the hip and leg rotate outwards when you are walking. If your pelvis does not regain easy movement, you may find pain and tension up the back and into the neck, or down the legs and into the calves. As your body unconsciously tenses, more muscles are engaged in a holding pattern of contraction or guarding.
Time for self care, avoid pain
Are you willing to attend to the gardener’s body signals that mean: “get up, move around”? If you take frequent breaks from sustained forward bending or crouching, and apply appropriate stretches, you are well on your way to awaken the kinesthetic sense that allows you to avoid pain. However, if you have existing tightness in your low back or sacrum, or have lost sensation in muscles that have fallen into disuse, it is better if those conditions are addressed first. Massage or Ortho-Bionomy® can help. Attempting to stretch a strained muscle will not allow it to relax, and may even increase the pain.
Call your massage therapist for some Ortho-Bionomy®!
Ortho-Bionomy®, neuromuscular or myofascial release and various massage techniques allow the body to come into a state of relaxation and release out of tension patterns .
If you are a gardener, and have pain in any of these areas, I would be happy to help you restore ease and comfort in sitting, standing and walking, find a good night’s sleep and wake to another fine day of gardening. Give me a call, 503-708-2911.