I dug a hole in our garden the other day. (yes, I call that gardening).
Unsurprisingly I ached a fair amount afterward – for a good couple of days. You could even say I had the dreaded “back ache”.
Yes, despite being fairly active, lifting weights and trying to keep in as good a shape as possible, a day of spade work and repetitious activity gave my body a bit of a shock in terms of making me want to sit down and take some pain killers.
It wasn’t simply doing gardening that did this, it was the constant repetition of the same unfamiliar movement over and over. I made sure, as much as possible, that I was keeping my back strong, and not bending too much, that I was squatting and lifting, but over the course of a day, perfect movement doesn’t always happen.
Lets face it, my muscles were fairly unused to the specific movements I was doing, and my back started to complain.
Looking at it, I’m fairly active. I’m young(ish) and fairly strong, and yet this still happened to me.
What might happen if I was relatively sedentary, didn’t lift heavy things on most days of the week, and decided after a winter/few seasons of not doing much, to go and do some gardening?
From doing no physical activity to lots of bending, moving, lifting, digging etc. all movements that we are able to do, but not ones we practice, might well put a level of exertion on us which might end up causing overuse and pain.
Muscles that have become weak through disuse are going to really start to complain through overuse.
Now it is summer I see more and more people visiting the physio room with gardening related injuries, aches and pains, many of which can be put down to weak, disused muscles being used repeatedly (overuse) and causing a fair amount of discomfort.
Any repeated unaccustomed activity is going to do this, especially if you engage in it after a long lay off.
Let me put it this way. If I suggested you engage in a repeated muscularly challenging activity for 3-4 hours which you rarely do- lets say swinging a sledgehammer, pulling a rope or just doing sit ups, might you think it could end up causing a bit of pain through relative overuse?
I think it might.
The best thing to do? inoculate yourself against fatigue and repetitive movement patterns. Throughout the year, keep moving, keep lifting, keep doing things which will mean that when you decide to do some gardening, when you want to lift something heavy into your car, you are used to it, and won’t cause yourself a mischief.