Physiotherapy and Gardening Advice

Spring is a special season for all gardeners.  Weeds are tugged at and cleared, soil is dug and nurtured, seedlings and seeds are planted.  It is so easy for many gardeners to take on too much, resulting in musculoskeletal strains and sprains.

Sustaining an injury whilst gardening occurs easily. Physiotherapy is often needed to ease muscle or joint pain in various areas of the gardener’s body (low back, knee, shoulder, wrist, elbow, neck).



  • If you have a pre-existing physical problem take extra care. Be mindful of what you are wanting to do in the garden and prepare your body for this with stretches. Pace your activities over time. Always include a rest period between activities to recover
  • Do not take on too much. Respect your body by not lifting or carting huge loads that are outside your physical strength zone
  • Select appropriate gardening tasks for the required job. Go for comfort versus strain when clipping, digging, sawing and shovelling. Use tools with ergonomic handles and handle lengths that suit your height
  • Avoid repetition strain of muscles and joints by mixing up activities during the gardening period
  • Use a kneeling pad with handle to protect your knees when weeding, trowelling and mulching. The handle is useful in assisting you to get to a standing position safely
  • Avoid bending from your waist, sustained forward lean and activities that place strain on the spine, when raking, leaf blowing and sweeping
  • When potting, work at a comfortable bench height
  • Keep any load close to you when lifting from your knees, being aware of engaging pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles before lifting
  • If pruning, be careful with arm reaching activities. Ensure you always have a stable footing. Do not over reach and strain neck and shoulder areas with loaded pruning action. Sharp pruning tools are important
  • Use your foot to push a spade into the soil when you are digging. Avoid shoving the spade into the soil when you are digging and shoving the spade into the soil with a momentous arm action and back bend
  • When lawn mowing walk tall with the mower to minimise forward trunk lean


If you feel tired or there is pain it is time to stop the gardening activity. Seek physiotherapy if your pain continues beyond 24-48 hours. At Physiotherapy for Women our experienced Physiotherapists will assess your issue and select treatment options to promote healing and recovery.

Mid-Back Stretch – Cat Stretch

cat-stretchMid -Back – Cat Stretch

  1. Lower into a squat with the hands on the thighs, back arched
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles. (Try to pull your belly button gently toward your spine.)
  3. Slowly round your back, pushing it up toward the ceiling.
  4. Allow your head to drop forward and curl your pelvis under.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Raise your head up and let your pelvis fall forward as your belly reaches down toward the floor.
  8. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  9. Repeat about 5 to 10 times.

Lower Body Warm Up – Air Squats

Before heading off on a walk, run or other sporting activity, air squats are useful to warm the lower and upper body.  It is also a useful morning stretch exercise that can be done before rushing out the door to work, or even whilst waiting at  the bus stop.

1) Stand comfortably with your arms by your side and your legs shoulder width apart.

2) As you slowly bend your hips and knees to lower you buttocks toward the floor/ground, raise your arms to shoulder level.  Keep your knees in line with your feet.

3) Allow your spine to be neutral as you squat with your chest lifted.

4) Once your thighs are level with the floor/ground, reverse the motion and return to standing with arms by your side.

5) Repeat 10 to 15 times.



Brain Training With Neurobics

What is Neurobics?
Neurobics is a new scientific term referring to the selection of tasks that stimulate the brain’s biochemistry. This stimulation has been shown to activate new pathways within and between neural tissue of brain centres. Brain circuits are thereby strengthened or maintained with specific mental exercises that provide mental challenges.
Promoting mental agility and flexibility in everyday life is now accepted as being vital in reducing age-related mental decline, along with lowering rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Our brain needs to be nurtured and stimulated daily with a task that has a mental challenge added to our regular daily activities. The task you choose requires doing something a little different to what you habitually do each day. Therefore neurobics can be done anytime and anywhere in your day’s activities. These brain exercises allow you to be creative and you can use sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, proprioception, emotions and feelings. It does not matter whether you are at home, at work or at leisure.
Some examples to get you thinking are:
Select clothes to wear based on touch versus colour.
Write a short sentence or draw a picture using your other hand.
Brush your hair or teeth using your non-dominant hand.
Take up a new hobby that requires several senses and no routine thinking.
Change your usual walking path and mentally note differences that you see.
Travel to a different shop, market, pharmacy, butcher or bakery. Challenge yourself by selecting something different to what you would normally buy and learn about what you have chosen.
Cook a different food to what you would normally eat or select something different for breakfast or lunch. Use your senses in these new experiences.
Choose a different park to sit in, close your eyes and sense what is around you by listening, smelling and feeling the experience. Take that experience with you and recall it later in the day.
Arriving home at the front door with keys in hand, close your eyes and proceed to unlock the door and step inside.
As you can see these exercises are very different to doing a crossword, word puzzles or Sudoku, which have become routine mental activities for many people. Because of the routine nature of these logic puzzles there occurs less brain stimulation when compared with new creative tasks.
It’s time to take up the challenge and create brain training tasks that are fun and so good for you.

Osteoarthritis – the value of self management and therapy

Osteoarthritis or OA is a degenerative condition of the body’s joints. It occurs most commonly as we age, but even young people can develop osteoarthritis. Primarily weight bearing joints like the hip, knee, ankle and lumbar spine are involved. However any joint in the body can be affected.

Osteoarthritic changes in joints have been shown to occur in 90% of the western human population, with degenerative joint change being shown to occur by the time many people reach 40 years of age. Therefore it should not be considered an old person’s disease.

Healthy joint movement will rely on the cartilage covering joint surfaces. This cartilage is necessary to allow the joint to move smoothly and in a fluid process. Loss of joint cartilage or damage to this smooth lining is a common finding in osteoarthritis.

The characteristics of this condition are joint pain, swelling, inflammation, muscle weakness, loss of joint range, joint noise or sounds, stiffness and joint instability.

To improve outcomes it is important to understand that you need to actively participate in your care. Only relying on pain medication and surgery to reduce symptoms and improve physical function is not supported by research. Even severely damaged joints should be treated conservatively in the early management stage of this condition.

It is now recognised that better health outcomes occur when the individual is encouraged to focus on weight reduction, diet and nutrition, exercise and education.

Physiotherapy assessment and treatment is a conservative approach in your osteoarthritis management plan where reducing pain and swelling, as well as restoring joint movement and optimal physical function are vital.

Physiotherapy treatment may consist of:

  • Mobilising joint/s and related soft tissue structures of muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Electrotherapy modalities
  • Prescription of movements and exercise that is specific to your own requirements to enhance muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and balance
  • Dry needling
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Education on postural awareness, adjusting daily activity and self-pacing
  • Education on how to use joint supports, splints, braces or aids to support joint movement, improve range, reduce pain
  • Education on how to modify your home and work environment with ergonomic chairs, cushioned mats to stand on in daily work areas to decrease pain and fatigue

Evidence strongly supports the importance of a regular home exercise program in reducing osteoarthritic flare-ups. Being compliant with your management plan is so important. When the exercise program is discontinued because you are feeling better or your physical function has improved, flare-ups are common. Maintenance physiotherapy visits every few months will greatly assist in maintaining your joint movement and provide the time to review, update and reinforce your management plan. While maintenance is an ongoing process, research shows the overall medical costs are reduced for the individual because acute flare-ups are controlled. Therefore the quality of your life is enhanced with physiotherapy.

At Physiotherapy for Women our Health in Balance approach will help you develop a physical activity program that respects your osteoarthritis and preventing symptoms.

Please phone or email us for further information.

 P: 08 8443 3355




Core Muscle Activation

When you’re suffering from lower back pain, developing an awareness of core activation is important.

Activating core muscles gently:

  1. Begin by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  2. Try to relax your low back, keeping it in a neutral position (which means you should feel a slight curve in your low back. Monitor this curve with your hand under your back)
  3. Turn “on” your core muscles by gently activating your pelvic floor muscles by thinking to stop a wee. Then tighten an imaginary string running across your low tummy
  4. Focus on the string tightening being maintained for 10 to 15 seconds, whilst gently breathing
  5. Repeat 10x
  6. As your awareness of core improves, develop the skill of using your core activation in daily activities – before lifting the grocery bags, before bending, whilst sweeping