Safe Back Gardening Tips

Spring and summer means more time outside.  If you are like many of our patients, you enjoy getting out in the yard digging and planting in the garden.  Here are some safe back gardening tips to help you safely navigate the planting and growing season.

Get In Gardening Shape

Back Safe Stretch

Knee to Chest Stretch (photo courtesy of ChiroUp)

Gardening is a physically demanding activity.   One of the worst things a person can do is embark on a weekend of gardening after being inactive all winter!  Getting in shape before the gardening season will help to keep your back safe from injury. It’s a good idea to exercise at least a little bit prior to the busy outdoor season. Simple exercise like walking or some light weight training will help prepare your muscles for the upcoming tasks.  Be sure to warm up and stretch before going out.  A simple back stretch is to lie on your back and gently bring one or both knees to the chest.

Be Careful How You Lift and Bend

Safe Bending

Hip Hinge (courtesy of ChiroUp)

This is a big one.  Improper and strenuous lifting can create a lot of back pain problems.  The mechanics of forward bending places a lot of stress and strain on the muscles and ligaments of the low back.  A safe way to bend forward is to “hinge” from the hip, avoiding too much bending at the waist.  “Hinging” at the hip helps to reduce the amount of stress on the joints and muscles of the lower spine.  This is a technique that we teach our patients frequently.

Working on hands and knees can greatly reduce the amount of bending required for many tasks.  A good set of knee pads will enable you to work more comfortably at ground level when necessary.



Pace Yourself

Another one of our safe gardening tips is to take frequent breaks. Going too fast for too long can lead to injuries of the back and shoulder.  Break up your tasks into doable segments.  I recently had a patient in the office with a very sore low back.  He explained that he had been clearing brush and using a chainsaw during the weekend.  He admitted that he had worked nearly nonstop without a break and realized that if he had taken a couple of breaks during the day he might not have developed severe back pain.  Take regular rest breaks and remember to drink plenty of fluids.

Use the Right Equipment

Garden tools with longer handles allow you to stand more upright when hoeing, raking or sweeping.  Avoiding a flexed or forward bent posture will put less stress on the low back.   A continuous forward bent position leads to fatigue and pain in the muscles of the low back.  Wear proper fitting gloves to protect your hands and wear long sleeves when possible to limit sun exposure.

Try these safe back gardening tips this season.  If you find that you you need a little help with a neck, low back or shoulder problem, feel free to give our office a call or request an appointment here.

Chiropractor Greenville NC

Greenville Office“How did you end up as a chiropractor in Greenville, NC?”  It’s a question our patients ask frequently.  They wonder exactly how a mid-westerner ended up in eastern North Carolina.

The answer to that question really begins in 1972 when I was in high school in Iowa.  I had hurt my back (upper back and neck actually) while wrestling.  The pain would not subside no matter what I did to help it.  I tried ice, heat, stretching and even had my brother try to massage it.   Nothing could relieve the pain and, as a result, I was unable to  participate in wrestling practice.  I needed help.  A friend of our family suggested that I try a chiropractor.  They recommended their chiropractor, Dr. O.W. Murphy.

Dr. Murphy was a kind and experienced gentleman who had been in practice for well over forty years at the time.  He had also taught at Palmer College of Chiropractic for several years while maintaining his practice.  He examined me and then treated me for a couple of visits and to my pleasant surprise, I began to feel better. It wasn’t long before I was back at wrestling practice, able to participate just like I could before the injury. That event made quite an impression on me, and it wasn’t long before I decided to make chiropractic my career.

After graduation from Palmer College of Chiropractic, I started teaching at Palmer.  During that time I stayed in touch with some classmates who settled in the Triangle area.  In 1992, they made me aware of an opportunity to practice as a chiropractor in Greenville, NC.  The following year I acquired a chiropractic practice from Dr. Stan Walter who had been in practice for over 40 years in Greenville.

It has been over twenty-five years since our arrival in Greenville, and I often look back with much fondness and gratitude to the events that brought us to this area.  We look forward to many more years of providing chiropractic care to the people of eastern North Carolina.

4 Things to Know About Low Back Pain (LBP)

Image of low back pain

1. It’s a Common Problem

Low back pain (LBP) is a common problem in the United States. It is estimated that 80% of Americans will experience a significant low back injury in their lifetime. Annually, the problem affects about 15-20%.of the population. Other studies indicate that, at any point in time, about 12-33% percent of the US population have LBP symptoms.  Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. It has been estimated that back injuries account for more than 264 million lost work days per year, which is equal to 2 full days of absence for every full-time worker in the United States. LBP is the third most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, behind skin and arthritis disorders.  Back pain can affect almost adult at almost any age, but the most likely age for the first onset of lower back pain is in the third decade of life.  The highest incidence of all low back injuries occurs between the ages of 30 and 60.

2. The Problem Can Become Chronic

It is generally accepted that most episodes of low back pain resolve within two or three months of onset, but some studies have cast doubt on that assumption. A study from the British Medical Journal found that only about 25% of patients who originally consulted their physician about back pain had recovered within one year.  They also found that only a small percentage of patients continued to see their doctor for their back problem after three months, concluding that they simply decided to put up with their back pain!

The recurrence of LBP is common and, for a small percentage of people, their condition will become a chronic disability.  Studies indicate that the risk of becoming disabled from back pain increases when the initial back pain episode exceeds 14 days.  A study from 2009 showed that chronic low back pain rates rose significantly among North Carolina residents from 1992 (3.9%) to 2006 (10.2%).

3. Some People Are At Greater Risk For Developing Low Back Pain

Factors that increase the risk of developing this LBP include:  obesity, smoking, heavy manual labor, repetitive bending and twisting, exposure to whole body vibration (driving a truck, operating heavy equipment), stress, anxiety and depression. Having a sedentary job that requires a lot of sitting can also contribute to the onset of back problems.  A sedentary lifestyle can also delay recovery from an episode of low back pain.

The vast majority of LBP cases are mechanical in nature, meaning that the cause is due to a structural problem  with the joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves of the spine. A very small percentage of back pain can come from a serious problem such as an infection, inflammatory arthritis, cancer or fracture.

4. There is Help for People with Low Back Pain (LBP)

Fortunately, there is help for most individuals who suffer from LBP.  After a thorough examination, a doctor of chiropractic will be able to determine if a low back condition can be helped with chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT).  Chiropractic has been shown to be effective for LBP in several studies. In one study, chiropractic proved to be more effective for the treatment of LBP when coupled with medical care compared to medical care alone.  Often, our treatment will include exercises designed to help improve spine function and strength.  These exercises can help to correct an underlying problem that led to the low back issue in the first place and, perhaps, prevent the recurrence of a back injury.

Have questions about your back pain?  Feel free to click here to request an appointment at our office.