It is very easy to injure the neck and shoulders when engaging in a lot of heavy clipping and trimming of shrubs and plants in the garden.
When your arms become tired with clipping and brush cutting at shoulder height or above, often the muscles around the neck become overused. This also applies if you have weak shoulders. I often see people in the practice who come in with neck pain after a weekend of gardening because they have lost strength in their shoulders over time and start overusing their neck muscles to compensate.
Here are a few tips that can help avoid this problem:
- Try breaking up the gardening tasks into 10-minute portions alternating between upper arm tasks and then ground tasks such as weeding.
- Improve your shoulder strength with a few simple exercises:
- Stand up straight facing a wall.
- Take a step back and place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height and slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Bend your elbows, taking your chest towards the wall. Keep your body in a straight line and tighten your buttocks and abdominals. Try to keep your head from poking forward.
- Return to the starting position by straightening your elbows, lifting your chest away from the wall.
You can progress this with push-ups on the floor:
- Lie on your front face down with your hands on the floor shoulder width apart and your fingers facing forwards.
- Press up using your arms and shoulders, lifting your body up onto your toes, so that you have a straight line from your head to your feet. Keep your abdominals and core muscles tighten so you do not arch or sag your back. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest down towards the start, keeping your body completely straight.
- If this is too difficult, try starting with your knees on the floor and press-up from this position.
Hope this helps your gardening experience!