Body Challenges at the Beginning of Garden Season

Here it is, the beginning of Spring and those of us gardeners in Corvallis, blessed with this long growing season, are already getting our hands in the dirt.  More sunny days, light until 7 p.m. and perennials and winter crops beginning to show there lovely green gets us going.  It’s a challenge to pace ourselves — I know I’m not alone.!

Even if we’ve been active all winter with exercise, yoga or other stretching, chances are we haven’t quite used our bodies in the same demanding ways that gardening asks of us.  And for those of us getting on in years — yes, I’m almost middle aged, I’ll admit — our bodies aren’t quite as resilient as they used to be.  It’s a hard lesson to learn, because despite other gardening strains in the past,  I overdid it last week.  I zealously began to prepare to plant those lovely asparagus starts that arrived in the mail.  I brought in soil to raise a bed, spreading it over the leaves and cardboard I’d smothered my grass with last fall.  Then I realized, never having planted asparagus before, that I really needed to either bring in more soil or dig into that soil under the cardboard — asparagus likes a lot of very loose and good draining soil.  Since I didn’t have more soil I began to dig. That soil was, as can be expected this time of year, one big clump of mud.  After about a third of the bed, I took a break and when I went back two days later, it didn’t take much to overdo it and tweak my lower back.  Yes, and I even stretched well after my first digging session and did yoga in the morning before going out again.

I could have prevented hurting my back if I’d really listened.  But after roughly completing the asparagus bed, I thought, “And then there are those lovely pea starts that my friend Jane gave me.  I should really try to dig up the bed for them and just slip those puppies in the ground.”  If I were truly listening to this body of mine, I would have stopped and told myself those peas will do just fine waiting until my body has recuperated from this last deep dig.  I did stop even before I got those peas in the ground, but not soon enough.  As the day progressed, I realized I’d gone too far.  I had to be very careful with my body so my back wouldn’t seize up really badly.  I treated it with some gentle stretching, resting, applying some Topricin (a wonderful anti-inflammatory and pain relieving cream that I highly recommend), and icing. It all helped but I still needed to cut back on my busy work schedule the next day.

I’m blessed that my husband, Russ, is also a craniosacral therapist so he’s helped me with a couple of sessions.  I’ve also pulled out my theracane and have been rubbing sore spots and trigger points as well as applying acupressure on myself.  It’s all been very helpful and I’m much better, and yet, 5 days later, I’m still suffering a bit.  I think I’ve managed to misalign my SI joints and though the muscles in my low back and buttock area are loosening , I still have a catch in that lower lumbar and sacral region.

If I’d only listened more deeply to my body’s signals and worked in shorter gardening sessions these early spring days, I probably would have already gotten my asparagus and pea beds planted.  As it is, I’m nursing my back and vowing to myself that I WILL listen more deeply, starting right now.

One of the greatest gifts of being a massage therapist is the reciprocal learning that happens on a regular basis.  Whatever I learn for my own healing always spills over to what I can offer my clients. It’s interesting that half of my clients this week have been dealing with low back and hip pain. They  continue to offer me so much experience and wisdom, that I will never stop growing as I work in this field!

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