It’s that time of year again—spring—time to get dirty in the garden. If you’re like most gardeners, you already know that digging in the dirt, planting, mulching, mowing and the rest of the yard chores can keep you as fit as hitting the gym.
Researchers have also found moderate exercise like walking and gardening can cut your risk of heart attack and stroke up to 30 percent and prolong life for those over 60.
What’s more, gardening is good for your brain. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that exercise like gardening can slash your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by half. If that’s not enough to get you digging in the tulips, we don’t know what is.
But while gardening can be stress relieving, fun and yield a beautiful or tasty bounty depending on what your garden grows, it can come with overuse injuries, back, shoulder and knee pain. It’s important to avoid weekend warrior gardening so when Monday rolls around, you won’t be too sore to get moving again.
Now’s the time to keep the TENS unit close. If you don’t already have one of these small muscle savers, your garden may thank you for investing in one now. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and is predominately used for nerve related pain conditions. It’s great for acute pain, discomfort that may crop up after a day in the garden.
TENS units can work in several ways; scientific theory suggests that the pulses can block the pain message from reaching the brain, it may trigger the body to produce more endorphins (a natural pain killer) or the therapy improves blood circulation.
Electrotherapy, treating pain the drug-free way with electrical energy from TENS, is a top-notch way to relieve minor discomfort that can come with gardening. Omron’s Max Power Relief is a personal TENS therapy unit that relieves pain via 9 modes of pre-set therapy with 3 massage-like modes (kneading, rubbing and tapping). You control the pressure and length of time and let the TENS unit do the rest. It feels like a relaxing massage and can relieve muscle aches, pains and stiffness in 15-30 minutes.
You can also ease into gardening by taking a few precautions to limit overuse injuries:
• Warm up by walking around the garden and assessing your chore list. Stretch arms, legs and back.
• Wear gloves, a hat and sun protection.
• Protect against insects.
• Rotate your tasks. Switch up raking, pruning, digging and pulling weeds every 15-20 minutes so as not to cause a repetitive overuse injury.
• Bend from the knees not the waist to save your back.
• Take breaks and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
• Don’t overdo your time outdoors. Keep it short so you can come back tomorrow.
• Try a relaxing soak in the tub after gardening followed by some downtime with your TENS unit.