As we progress further into spring and summer, many of us become more active around the house and into our gardens. This can lead to an increase in back injuries and issues. If you are a gardener excited to get to work now that it’s warm, it is very important that you take measures to look after your back.
Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints associated with gardening. One of the best ways to prevent back pain is to avoid repeated bending or stooping, which causes stress to your spine. Whenever possible, you should get closer to the ground by using a bench. Try and do exercises between the waist and chest. So if you are re-potting, try and do it on a bench and don’t bend over low to the ground. You should also use a pad under your knees when kneeling on the ground to dampen any pain. Also, consider planting a raised garden bed in order to bring the work closer to you. And be sure to use tools that are the proper length for the job. Tools that are too short will require the lower back to stay in a flexed position.
Here are a few tips to help you have an enjoyable and pain-free gardening season:
Warm up and stretch. With any type of exercise, stretching must be done before and after the activity. A short brisk walk to warm up your muscles and get you into work mode. Stretching should target your back and core, shoulders and arms and leg muscles.
Minimize repetitive actions. Try and spread out your gardening work over a few sessions. Alternating between jobs is a good way to avoid repetitive motions. Any task performed for too long can cause poor posture and put strain on your back. If you’re working on something that requires you to be bent over, switch every 30 minutes to an hour to an exercise where you’re standing up.
Digging. Make sure to avoid twisting motions. Always position yourself so that the shovel is in line with your body. When raking, always rake towards the body.
Kneeling. Use a kneeling pad to protect your knees. Make sure to use the pad and don’t do the work bending over. Bending for prolonged periods of time will overstretch the ligaments in your back. Always try and keep your back straight.
Lifting. Use a wheelbarrow if you’re transporting heavy pots or bags. When lifting them into and out of the wheelbarrow make sure to get the power from your legs and not your back.
Bending and reaching. Experts and physical therapists will tell you that you are most vulnerable to injury when you are bending at the waist and reaching. If you absolutely must bend, do so with your knees rather than your back. And always position yourself close enough to do your task so that you’re not reaching.
Switch often. Avoid repetitive-motion injuries by dividing up each task into sections that allow you to switch activities and posture frequently. Weed one area and then stand up and water it before weeding again.
Remember to take regular, well earned breaks and hydrate yourself. If you find that you are feeling sore, it’s probably a good time to stop the activity and rest. 8 out of 10 Canadians will suffer from back pain at some point in their lifetime. Don’t be a statistic this season.