APM Blog

Melinda Myers

Melinda Myers (5)

02 Nov

Gardeners are no strangers to aches and pains. The constant bending, kneeling and twisting can take its toll on even the toughest among us. But there’s an easy way to guard against garden injury, and it starts in the toolshed.

Focus on the Padding


Padding isn’t just for contact sports; it’s an important element of any gardener’s toolbox. To reduce knee pain and injury, turn to a padded kneeler or knee pad when weeding and planting. And tools need padding, too. Gardening expert Melinda Myers says she uses pruners, saws and trowels with a cushioned, ergonomic grip to lessen hand pain, cramping and fatigue.

Brace Yourself

There are a variety of braces available, including back, wrist and knee, which can help support your body when you bend and twist. Braces, which are especially effective for dealing with chronic pain, carpal tunnel and osteoarthritis, among other conditions, can reduce pain and help prevent further injury, while assisting in recovery and improving mobility. Myers, who suffered from knee pain, used a knee brace to stabilize and reduce pain, and currently uses a foot /ankle brace to reduce pain while standing for long periods or walking on uneven ground.

Lighten the Load

Heavy lifting in the garden — from rocks and fertilizer to water and hoses — is a common cause of injury. Consider using a wheelbarrow, wagon or garden cart to haul the heavy stuff, saving your back and knees from the strain. When loading in your gardening gear, though, remember to start from a kneeling or squatting position, with your back straight, and lift with your legs while holding the object close to your body.

02 Nov

The frequent bending, kneeling, stooping and reaching that are required  to create and maintain a beautiful garden can often leave your body with aches and pains, pulls andstrains. Raising your garden off the ground can be an easy – and visually appealing – solution, saving your body from unnecessary strain while adding a pop to your plants.

Bale Out

A straw bale garden is an interesting alternative to the traditional raised garden bed. Although it takes a bit more preparation work than a normal garden (12 days of conditioning and daily watering), there are many perks, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Not only does it raise the garden to a better working height, but it doesn’t require large amounts of soil and the straw bales serve as the container and planting mix. To get the best results, says Myers, “Plant annual vegetables, condition the bales in early spring and plant them in spring for a summer or fall harvest.” So save those fall decorative straw bales and convert them into a productive garden next spring.

Step by StepLadder_Garden-1

Placing plants on the rungs of a ladder is a creative way to add visual appeal and raise plants off the ground. If you plan to place your ladder outside, use pots of fall favorites like pansies or mums.

But don’t forget to secure the pots to the ladder and the ladder to the ground so they don’t blow over, reminds Myers. You can also bring your ladder indoors and use flowering plants like anthuriums and peace lilies, which look beautiful staggered on a ladder and can be maintained without excessive stooping or kneeling.

“This would also be a fun way to change things seasonally,” says Myers, who suggests switching to festive plants like poinsettias around the holidays.

Take a Seat

“Any chair, stool, support or repurposed item would make a great decorative addition to the garden,” says Myers. Such items add both vertical interest and accessibility. Add a pop of coordinating color with mums, bright light Swiss chard, snapdragons or dianthus. Or try planting a leaky birdbath. “Greens like lettuce and spinach would look nice, fit the space and thrive in cooler fall temps,” suggests Myers.

Garden, Garden on the Wall


Green walls are another option for upright gardeners. “These are basically containers gone vertical,” says Myers. Not only are they a very trendy option right now, she says, but they are also something you can build yourself.

For those who aren’t handy, a cloth over-the-door shoe caddy can work just as well – and provide an individual spot for a variety of indoor plants and herbs. Just be sure to protect the floor or any furnishing located below the caddy from dripping water.

Grab Some Padding

For the sections of your garden that are still at ground-level, don’t fret; there are still ways to reduce pain during prolonged periods of planting, weeding or harvesting. To reduce knee pain and injury, for instance, look into purchasing a padded kneeler or knee pads. And when dealing with back pain, consider using a back brace, which can provide back and abdominal support when your muscles are overactive and you experience muscle spasms, or when your muscles are weak and don’t provided the needed support. Knee and wrist braces are also an option.

Learn More

For more expert gardening advice from Myers – along with tips on how to stay safe and avoid pain in the garden – download your free Gardening Toolkit

02 Nov

Grab your shovel, knee pads and trowel and start planting your way to a beautiful landscape.

Most gardeners are used to adding a few (or a few hundred) bulbs to their gardens in fall. But fall is also a great time to add trees, shrubs and perennials to your yard. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. And many of these plants are on sale, extending your planting budget.

Fall Bulb PlantingAvoid pain this fall when planting bulbs.

Plant hardy bulbs now for a welcome burst of color next spring. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are a few favorites. But don’t overlook lesser-used bulbs like squills, winter aconites and snowdrops. These early bloomers are some of the first to greet you in spring, and the animals tend to leave them be.

Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height. Next, cover them with soil and sprinkle a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer over the soil to promote rooting without stimulating the kind of fall growth that is subject to winter kill. Water them thoroughly and as needed until the ground freezes.

Minimize Pain during Planting

It’s easy to take care of your knees and back when planting spring bulbs. Use a kneepad or kneeler to protect your knees and hold your back as straight as possible when reaching down to plant. If you experience back pain stemming from lumbar instability, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or just general muscle weakness, a back brace can help you maintain the proper posture – and help you avoid more pain in the future. Similarly, a wrist brace can help combat carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and arthritis to help you plant more easily.

Use a trowel with a cushioned grip or a long-handled bulb planter that allows you to dig the planting holes with minimal bending and kneeling. If you must bend over, remember that bending the knees and hips while tightening your abs is much safer than bending at the back. But always try to avoid bending for long periods of time.

Safely Plant Perennials, Trees and Shrubs

Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.

Protect your body and avoid damaging your newly purchased trees and shrubs with proper transport, planting and care. Ask for help unloading, moving and planting bulky and heavy plants. You’ll find an extra set of hands makes these heavy jobs go faster with less stress on your body. Together, squat to grab the object and hold it close to your bodies as you lift. As you move, avoid twisting your body and take small steps. Squat again to set it down, keeping your back straight and your core tight.

You can also utilize tools and equipment to help lighten the load. For instance, a wheelbarrow or even just an old snow saucer with a towing rope can help you easily move plants from your vehicle to the planting hole.

Fall Planting Tips

Plant trees so the root flare (the place where the roots curve away from the trunk) is even with the soil surface. Dig a hole the same depth as the rootball and about two to five times as wide. When digging the hole, use a long-handled shovel to move manageable amounts of soil, and be sure to lift with your legs and avoid twisting your body. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill it with the existing soil. Water the tree thoroughly and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface, keeping it away from the tree trunk.

Follow a similar planting procedure for perennials and shrubs. Plant these so the crown (the place where stems meet the roots) is even with the soil surface. And be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems.

Adding a few new additions to the landscape now will give you more time for spring gardening tasks, including a few early season plantings in your flower and vegetable gardens. And doing it safely will reduce your risk pain in the future.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

02 Nov

Toward the end of September and beginning of October, a plethora of crops are ready to harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash, including pumpkins, continue to ripen and will fill our harvest baskets until the first killing frost, says gardening expert Melinda Myers. “And, even with cooler temperatures,” she says, “mid-summer plantings of cool crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale will mature. Their flavor actually improves after a light frost.” Even late plantings of things like greens, radishes, turnips and beets continue to grow and can be harvested as they mature throughout the fall season.

But before you head out to the garden to start gathering your harvest haul, make sure you know the best way to pick your plants in order to avoid doing damage – to both the plants themselves and to your body.

Grab the Right Tools

“Too often we head to the garden for a few minutes,” says Myers, “and an hour and a half later we are still out there, often without the equipment that protects our bodies.” Don’t fall into that trap. Without the right tools, you run the risk of hurting yourself and damaging your plants to the point where they will no longer keep producing

Consider investing in a sharp knife or garden scissors, which can make harvesting easier and do less damage than picking. For fruit trees, physical therapist Courtney Wack suggests using an apple picker to minimize repetitive hand motions.

When shopping for tools, “buy tools with wider handles, or bulk them up yourself with foam or a washcloth and some tape,” Wack suggests. This, along with stretching out your hands and wrists, can reduce the risk of hand pain later, especially for those suffering from arthritis.

And to reduce the risk of knee pain during prolonged periods of kneeling, a padded knee pad combined with a proper stance can go a long way. With the kneeler in position, drop down onto one knee and keep one foot one the ground to give your back more stability.

Carry Carefully

When it comes to transporting your haul to the house, make sure to do so carefully; fruits and vegetables can easily sustain damage en route, and so can you. “Stack veggies in a shallow basket or crate to minimize bruising,” says Myers. And empty the basket often, both to prevent bruising and because carrying too much weight in front of you can increase the strain on your back.

For greens like lettuce (on which you harvest the outer leaves when they reach 4 to 6 inches) and chard (8 to 10 inches), take a bucket of water into the garden and place the greens into it to keep them fresh.

To haul your harvest back indoors, squat to grab your basket of produce, tightening your core muscles, then lift with your legs. Don’t forget to keep the basket or crate close to you as you walk and avoid twisting at the waist. Or consider looking for a basket or bag you can wear on your back and use both straps to disperse the weight more evenly.

Protecting Perennials

Perennial plants like raspberries, strawberries and fruit trees, along with spring-harvested perennials like asparagus and rhubarb, require their own kind of care to protect them throughout the winter. “Do not fertilize them now,” warns Myers, since “fertilization stimulates late-season growth that can be killed in winter.” After a frost, she advises, remove any diseased or insect-infected leaves, but do not compost. Instead, contact your city for ideas on how to dispose of this type of material.

For protection from animals, consider erecting a fence around your fruit trees and bushes or use a repellent labeled for use on edibles. Scaring the animal away through the use of visual or auditory scare devices is also an option, although it’s not as effective in urban areas. In suburban and rural areas, noise-makers and motion-activated water sprayers may be useful. Or try visual items like reflective tape or predator statues to keep critters at bay. For the best results, use a combination of tactics, monitor them throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.

Pace Yourself

Although it’s tempting, don’t try to harvest all of your plants in one day. Spread it out over multiple days to reduce the risk of overworking yourself and your muscles. If you do pull a long harvesting shift, though, make sure to take frequent breaks, walking around and stretching every 20-30 minutes.

You can also try to enlist the help of a friend – both to share in the work and take home some of the produce. Having a partner means being able to switch between strenuous tasks, like carrying or picking produce, and easier ones, or even allow you time to rest. Besides, says Myers, “most gardeners plant more than they can use.” You’ll be grateful for both the extra help in the garden and the fact that they take some of your bountiful harvest off your hands.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

01 Nov

As we trade in our warm-weather clothes for boots, scarves and winter coats, it’s also time to bundle up our landscapes for the winter. Use this checklist to help you prepare your garden for the cold weather ahead, and to avoid injury in the process.

Cold-Weather Checklist

  • Water your plants thoroughly before the ground freezes. This is especially important for evergreens, new plantings and any stressed plants.

  • Drain and store your hoses, watering wands and other watering devices in a shed or garage once your plants are set for the winter. You’ll extend their life and make them easier to locate next spring.

  • Clean, organize and store shovels, rakes and other tools so they’ll be ready to use and easy to find as soon as next year’s gardening season begins.

  • Empty terra cotta, glazed and other pots, which are subject to cracking when the soil freezes and expands. Store your pots out of harm’s way until next spring.

  • Move fertilizers and pesticides to a secure location, safe from pets and children. Store granules and powders in a dry spot and liquids in a frost-free place so they’ll be effective for many seasons to come.

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands and keep them warm. Without proper protection, cold weather tends to make arthritic joints more painful. And, in addition to warmth, gloves provide compression, which can result in a degree of joint pain relief.

  • Safely store unplanted perennials, trees and shrubs for winter. Dig a trench in a vacant part of your garden, sink your pots in the trench and cover them with soil. But remember to select a long-handled digging tool that allows you to stand up straight. Short-handled tools can force you to bend down, increasing your chance of muscle strain. Take small scoops with the shovel, avoiding large loads, which are more likely to cause back injury. And when depositing the dirt, try to pivot your body rather than twisting it. Another option for your plants is to group them in a sheltered location and cover them with woodchips or surround them with bales of straw or bags of potting mix. The added insulation protects the roots and increases their chance of survival.

  • Move any remaining plants and container gardens into an unheated garage. Set them on a wooden board and surround them with packing peanuts or bags of potting mix for extra insulation. Water the pots any time the soil is thawed and dry.

  • Share the load and save your back. Asking for help when lifting and transporting larger pots, tools and garden art can make the job go faster and ease the strain on your back.

  • Use a PotLifter or similar device that makes wrangling and moving heavy or bulky items easier. You can also put an old sled, wagon or garden cart to use to help move items from the garden into storage.

  • When picking up heavy items, make sure to start from a squatting or kneeling position. Bending at the waist to pick things up can aggravate your back muscles. Once you’ve grabbed the object, keep your core tight and your back straight and lift upward with your knees. Keep heavy items close to your body as you walk and try not to twist or turn from the waist, which can cause back strain. Consider using a back brace to provide support and stabilization for your muscles.
  • Create windbreaks or loosely wrap broadleaf and newly planted evergreens with burlap or landscape fabric. This helps prevent browning caused by winter winds and the sun. If you’re staking the fabric into the ground, though, make sure to use leverage to your advantage; a longer-handled hammer or sledge will mean greater force applied to the stake with less effort on your part. But be careful. This high-impact, repetitive motion can be harmful for those with neck pain or shoulder pain. If you’re experiencing pain, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Protect fruit trees and newly planted trees and shrubs from hungry wildlife. Surround the plants with a 4-foot-high cylinder of hardware cloth to keep rabbits at bay. Sink the wire cloth 4 to 6 inches into the ground to prevent voles from feeding on the trunk.

  • If you prefer, apply repellents before the animals start feeding and reapply as needed and recommended on the label. Once they start dining on your landscape, it’s harder to keep animals away.

  • Once the ground freezes, cover tender perennials and bulbs, or those that were planted late in the fall, with evergreen branches or straw. This keeps the ground frozen, preventing frost heaving and early sprouting.

Future Payoff

These pain-fighting tips should pay off right away, with less soreness (and fewer injuries). And your gardeThese gardening tips can help you prepare your garden for winter and avoid pain in the process.ning efforts will definitely pay off next spring. You’ll spend less time and money replacing winter-damaged plants, tools and containers. Plus you’ll have easy access to the equipment and supplies you need to get an earlier start in the garden.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

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