Preventing back pain in gardening

Winter is behind us and spring is here! Longer days and warmer weather is enough encouragement as anything to get you back out in the garden to revamp our backyards after neglecting it during the colder months. While gardening has many benefits, such as being a stress relief and an outlet for creativity, the sudden increase of activity can put an enormous amount of strain on your body.

However seemingly relaxing gardening can be, it can actually be quite the workout! And just like any kind of activity, if not done correctly it can lead to pain and injury. Similarly, there are also many small steps that can be taken to minimise the impact on your body and drastically reduce the risk of injury.

Warm up – it is well known that before exercise, a warm up should be done to help prevent injury, and gardening is no exception. Before you undertake (sometimes) hours at a time of heavy lifting, repetitive movements and copious amounts of bending and reaching forward, it is important to warm your muscles up and stretch, especially your back. Go for a brisk five minute walk, and do some gentle stretches to loosen your back muscles. There are some great, simple exercises you can do to stretch – one is to lie flat on your back, then slowly bring both knees to your chest while bringing your head forward. You should feel a gentle stretch, not pain.

Lift carefully with correct technique – while gardening there are many instances in which you may need to lift heavy objects, such as pots, bags of potting mix, watering cans, etc. To lift correctly and safely, begin by squatting rather than bending at the waist. Holding the object with both hands, keep it closer to your body and slowly straighten your legs as you lift.

Use specialised equipment – use equipment designed to minimise the strain your body has to endure while gardening. Longer handled tools can be used to reduce the amount of reaching and bending you need to do, and support from a kneeler allows you to garden without the substantial amount of bending. Simple alternatives, such as only filling large watering cans halfway, also help to reduce strain on muscles and minimise the risk of injury when lifting.

Take breaks – it is easy to lose track of time when you’re in the rhythm of gardening, however it is very important to have a break every 20-30 minutes, particularly when undertaking a very repetitive movement, for example weeding. Ensure you walk around and stretch, especially those back muscles!

If you find you’re experiencing pain while gardening, or after you’ve finished, our practitioners at Body Mind Central Leichhardt are here to help! With chiropractors, a massage therapist and an occupational therapist, we’re sure to have someone who can treat you, help you manage your injury, and prevent further pain. Give us a call on 9518 0096 to book your appointment!