Wednesday, 27 September 2017 06:09

Angie

On August 8, 2008, Angie’s life changed forever. While on a camping trip with her friends, the unthinkable happened; she got turned around in the dark, tripped and fell off a cliff, landing directly onto her leg. As she puts it, she had almost every type of break possible. Despite fears that she would lose her leg, Angie’s doctors were able to reconstruct it. But the accident led to a painful cycle of surgeries and infections, and the accompanying pain even forced to her to drop out of school.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 18:37

The Health Perks of Being a Gardener

Some of the benefits of gardening are readily observable, like the pride of growing something beautiful or the refreshing feeling of spending time outdoors. But gardening actually offers a multitude of benefits that can improve your health and peace of mind, and even reduce your pain.

Endorphin Rush

All that raking, digging and weeding not only helps you burn calories, it can also release a flood of endorphins. The endorphins, in turn, trigger a positive feeling in the body — a “gardener’s high” — and have been shown to help reduce pain sensations.

Time to Relax

Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting on the floor cross-legged. It could also be in the garden, with your hands in the soil, surrounded by sunlight. For gardening expert Melinda Myers, “The rhythm of some garden tasks like weeding and planting … redirects your thoughts to the action and away from your stresses and worries.” Meditation has been shown to effectively reduce feelings of stress, release tension in the muscles and, like exercise, help release endorphins to combat pain.

Grow a Balanced Diet

The USDA recommends eating roughly 2 cups of both fruit and vegetables daily. Your garden can help you get there. Lettuce, arugula and microgreens can be grown indoors during fall and winter in a sunny window, says Myers. And short-season plants like radishes, greens and beets can be grown in containers outdoors in fall and moved inside on frosty nights.  

Stop and Smell the Basil

Gardens are also a wonderful place for aromatherapy. Basil, for instance, can energize and uplift, and, as an essential oil, help reduce inflammation. Other good plants include lavender, which relaxes and balances the body, chamomile, which relieves stress and anxiety, and thyme, which helps fight fatigue. 

Learn More

For more healthy tips, along with Myers’ tricks on how to grow beautiful gardens, download your free Gardening Toolkit .

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

In part one of our post on recommended warm-weather activities, we touched on the pain-fighting benefits of strengthening bones, increasing flexibility, building muscle and diminishing stiffness. We provided some back and neck friendly outdoor activity recommendations to enjoy in the month ahead. In this piece, APM experts share insight regarding activities to avoid if you are experiencing back or neck pain. Be sure to use caution when: Golfing with back pain can be easy with these tips.

Golfing:

The Midwest is home to some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. Whether you are waiting for the perfect spring day or if you’ve already played your favorite course - consider these important tips before you tee off.

  • Warming up is critical – especially for those first couple of rounds early in the season. Do adequate stretching and warm up to limber back and neck muscles that have likely not been used in a while.
  • Take a lesson — whether you're a golf newbie or an old pro who's been experiencing some back pain, you might want to take a lesson on swing mechanics. These classes emphasize proper form that is imperative to back and neck pain and injury prevention.
  • Bend from the hip — when bending during your game, be sure that you're bending from your hips and knees and not your back.
  • Focus — concentrating on the biomechanics of your swing will help ensure that you don't suffer a back or neck injury. Think about the motion of your body and don't lean forward.

Waterskiing / Motorized Water Activities:

Waterskiing and other motorized water sports are activities that someone with a back or neck condition should approach with extreme caution. Consider these important factors before hitting the waves:

  • Due to the high speeds involved with these types of activities, potential falls can involve significant momentum, leading to direct pressure on the neck and spine.
  • It is always best to slowly build up confidence and expertise before trying more advanced moves.
  • Stay in close communication with the person in control of the boat or other motorized water equipment.  

Amusement Parks:

Popcorn, corn dogs, tilt-a-whirl and games… what’s not to love about an amusement park during the warm spring and summer months? In addition to all the fun activities involved with taking kids to an amusement park, you may want to keep the following thoughts in mind for back and neck care:

  • Relax — if your pain management physician has given you the approval to get on a ride, be sure you do so with caution. Relax your muscles and do a few stretches to loosen up. Tensing up and holding your neck and back in place may cause additional pain.
  • Follow instructions — if you encounter a ride that advises guests who suffer from back and neck pain to abstain from riding, then you should definitely pay attention to the warning.

Camping:

 Camping is a popular warm-weather activity throughout the Midwest as a way to experience nature, relieve stress and bond between family and friends. However, if you suffer from back pain, sleeping on the hard ground may be a less than desirable scenario. Follow these tips to prevent pain from getting in the way of your enjoyable outdoor adventure.

  • Use an air or foam mattress — your sleeping bag on the hard ground may not be the best situation if you have back or neck pain. Investing in an air or foam mattress will make sleeping easier.
  • Wear good shoes — if you plan on hiking or walking from campsite to campsite, make sure to wear shoes that prevent jarring. Shock absorbers can wear out in shoes, so if yours are well worn, consider getting cushion inserts.
  • Drink water — being outdoors in the elements can take a larger toll on your body than you may think. Lack of hydration can cause sensitivity in the neck back muscles - so be sure to drink up.

There are many great opportunities for increased physical activity and fun in the great outdoors. However, it is best for most individuals – especially those experiencing a neck or back condition – to consult with your healthcare provider or pain management expert before beginning any new activity. In addition to consulting with your physician, start new activities slowly, take breaks and always warm up, stretching, stay hydrated and wear / use appropriate clothes and equipment.

What warm weather activities do you enjoy? Please share in the comment section below.

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