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
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
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.
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.