Spring is here in the DMV – which means gardening is on the mind for a lot of you.
Gardening has so many health benefits and it’s no surprise so many people fall in love with it…
It gets you outdoors in the fresh air, exposes you to vitamin D, it’s meditative, helps to improve hand-eye coordination, and it’s great exercise!
But what if you’ve got back pain?
If you love gardening – but cringing about what it might do to your back this Spring – then keep reading.
Here are 5 tips to avoid back pain while gardening…
1. Avoid bending from the waist
A common gardening posture I see is folks standing with straight or slightly bent knees and bending over from their waist – creating an “L-shape” with their body. While this posture is acceptable to do from time to time – it’s not a good idea to do this over and over again while gardening.
This particular posture puts a lot of strain on your lower back as well as the backs of your knees. Over time, your lower back muscles will become very sore and tight, which can make them susceptible to injury when you least expect it.
What to do instead?
Get in the habit of squatting and bending from your knees. If you must do a particular gardening activity for a sustained period – try being on all-fours – and switch your hands periodically.
These positions are much better for your back and you’ll be able to sustain the activity for much longer.
2. Take frequent breaks
It’s easy to get lost in the activity of planting and weeding. But even if you’re choosing good postures like I mentioned above – your back still needs a break.
Our spines do not enjoy being bent forward for prolonged periods and when you do this for too long without taking a break – it puts a lot of stress on the vertebral discs in your spine and makes them more likely to bulge.
I recommend setting a timer and giving yourself a break every 30 min.
Simply stand up and get out of the bent over posture. Your back will thank you and you’ll be able to garden for much longer without risk of injuring your spine.
3. Pivot instead of twist
One of the most vulnerable positions for your back is the combination of bending and rotating. And when done repetitively, you’re almost guaranteed an injury to your spine.
When you’re doing things like digging or planting – activities that have you bending and twisting – you want to pivot instead.
How do you do this?
Keep your body in line with the activity you’re doing.
Make sure your hips are always in line with the object you are moving or maneuvering – and keep your ribs in line with your pelvis so you can move your trunk as a unit.
While it’s ok to bend and twist from your waist on occasion – you’re asking for trouble when you do this over and over again – especially if you have a history of back pain episodes happening to you in the past.
4. Use gardening tools wisely
Gardening tools can be of significant help when it comes to maintaining good posture and avoiding overuse of your muscles and joints.
When you have to lift something heavy – especially repeatedly – use a wheelbarrow. This valuable gardening tool will allow you to lift and move heavy things with significantly less strain on your back.
If you’ve got to be on your knees or squatting a lot – consider using a gardening bench. This will make it easier to sustain activities that require prolonged bending or kneeling.
Lastly, use tools with longer handles to help avoid crouched over postures. If you can maintain a more upright posture while gardening, you’ll be able to tolerate it longer and with less back pain.
5. Raise your gardens
Let’s face it, gardening involves bending over and lots of it. Activities like this are just not good for your back when done repeatedly.
Consider modifying your garden to include more raised boxes and beds. This is going to make it so much easier to tend to your plants without having to bend over so much. And when you need to create a work surface – make sure that is raised too.
Bending forward isn’t “bad” for your spine – but when you bend all the time without giving your back a break – you’re asking for trouble.
Modifying your garden to make it more ergonomic can make a huge difference in the health of your spine.
Hopefully these tips give you some important things to consider – and maybe even help your back! Give one or two of them a try and let me know how it goes.
But seriously – if your back is so bad that you’re avoiding gardening all together – and maybe even avoiding other activities you love – get some expert help!
You can talk to a specialist at my clinic for free and see if you might be a good fit for what we do.
We specialize in helping folks over 40 get back to doing what they love without things like prescription pain pills, procedures, or risky surgery.
If that sounds like you – CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery Session with a specialist at my clinic.
PS - Feeling skeptical about working with us or even talking to a specialist at my clinic for free? If so - I totally get it - especially if you've already tried regular physical therapy in the past. Why would we be any different? Just about every one of our clients felt the exact same way as you before deciding to give us a shot... Read some of what they say here... and Google reviews here... before completely writing us off 🙂