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Planning Retirement Online

Home Exercise and Rehab

August 2012


Gina John Gina John is a Pilates Practitioner and Registered Osteopath who has spent many years offering help and advice, especially to the over 50 age group.

She is founder of The Osprey Clinic in the St. Johns Wood area of London and now specialises in Home Exercise and Rehabilitation Programmes. For further advice on exercising safely, and a selection of exercise films for general fitness and medical conditions, visit the website:




This month Gina looks at sore knees and tight lower back.


Q:  I find that my low back feels very tight and often I suffer with sore knees, the day after gardening. What can be done to avoid getting these symptoms? 

Gardening is a great way to enjoy the good weather over the Summer months and for improving our strength and mobility. It is also an excellent stress reliever. However, the posture held while gardening, in keeping the knees and hips bent for a long period of time, may cause tightness and stiffness in the low back, hips and legs. While observing the fruits of your hard work when it’s all done, you are likely to be left considering if it was worth all the symptoms it has caused!

It’s best to avoid bending and compressing your knee and ankle joints excessively, while gardening by kneeling rather than squatting. It is best to kneel down so that your knee joints are held at about a 90 degree angle. Particularly after knee replacement surgery or if you suffer with arthritis in the knees, it is important to avoid bending back the knee further, during any activity.

In order to prevent bruising or irritating the ligaments around the knee, always kneel on a pillow.
A condition called ‘Housemaid’s knee’ may also arise from long periods of kneeling. This is an inflammation of a small fluid-filled sac, called the ‘pre-patellar bursa’ which lies between the skin and the knee cap.

Clergyman’s or Parson’s Knee is another bursa inflammation or ‘bursitis’, caused by kneeling, which affects the ‘infra-patellar bursa’. It is an inflammation the bursa located just below the knee cap, between the skin and the tendon of the thigh muscle (patellar tendon) which attaches to the lower leg (tibia).

When bending forwards in the kneeling position while gardening, the muscles at the front of the hips and thighs as well as the muscles which attach behind the knees will have to contract forcefully, to hold this posture. Especially after hip replacement surgery or if you suffer with arthritis in the hips, the front of the joint will become extremely tight in holding this forward bent position.
Therefore, it is advisable to stretch these muscles after gardening and again in the morning on waking.


Hip and Front of Thigh Stretch

hip and front of thigh stretchKneel down at the side of your bed with your right knee on a pillow and the left foot flat on the floor in front. Keep your body upright, and take your weight forwards towards the left knee to feel the stretch at the front of the right hip. Hold the position for 20 seconds, using the side of the bed for support. Repeat the stretch for the left hip.



Back of leg and knee stretch

6Lie on your back with your knees bent and place the right foot in a scarf or theraband. Stretch the right leg up to the ceiling to feel the stretch at the back of the thigh and knee. Hold the position for 20 seconds and repeat the stretch for the left leg.

When bending forwards to tend to your plants, you will be stretching the deep ligaments and muscles which run along the spine as well as causing other back muscles to contract forcefully.
By tensing the abdominal muscles while gardening, you will help to support your low back. To do this, simply pull back your navel forcefully towards your spine.

The following exercises will help to relieve tension in the tight back muscles and should be done after gardening and on waking the next day.

Back Stretch Exercise

Back stretch exerciseOn waking, lie on your back and pull your knees in towards your chest. Make a circle with your knees 10 times clockwise and 10 times anticlockwise. Feel that you are massaging your low back into the mattress

If your balance and flexibility is good, you can achieve a deeper stretch for your back and legs with the following exercise:


Roll Down at the Wall Exercise
Stand with your back against a wall, with your feet about 1 foot in front. Pull back your abdominal muscles, pulling your navel tightly in towards the spine. Exhale as you roll your upper body down towards the floor as far as is comfortable. Hold the stretch for an in-breath and exhale as your roll back to the upright position, trying to press each vertebrae against the wall. Repeat 10 times.


Please send your questions for future columns, or feedback, by email to Gina John on





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