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The sun is out, flowers are blooming, and veggies are in the ground. Summer is here and we are anxious to get out into the garden. Well, gardening can offer fresh air, exercise, and relaxation. But gardening can also lead to back pain, especially if you have a previous back injury. Thankfully, back pain does not have to be a part of your garden plan. There are ways to garden safely while avoiding back pain and further injury.
Maintain Proper Posture
Keep proper body mechanics in mind when moving about the garden. When bending to lift, weed, or plant an area, do not bend at the waist as this places added strain on the lower back. With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat and lunge to do these tasks. Don’t twist at the waist. Kneel on kneeling pads whenever you can.
Lift With Your Legs
When lifting boxes, bags of soil, or their necessary items for the garden, squat and lift your items, keeping the items close to your core and body.
Have a Seat
For some activities, such as refreshing or planting flower pots or planting seeds in cells, do it all while sitting. Pull up a chair to a garden table (or sit at a picnic table) and do what you can without standing or bending. This garden cart rolling work seat helps take the pain out of picking those delectable delights when ripe.
Change Activities Often
As muscles tire, your risk for injury increases. So, instead of spending hours at a time simply weeding, break up your activities into short intervals. For example, spend 20 minutes weeding, 20 minutes raking, 20 minutes resting. Yes, resting! Take frequent breaks to prevent not only exhaustion but also overuse and straining of muscles.
Use Proper Tools
Using proper garden tools for the job at hand goes a long way to prevent back injury and pain. Wheelbarrows allow for the ease of moving heavy soil and other objects around the yard. Rakes, hoes, and trowels help to reach and grab things in the distance. Hose reels help with lugging a heavy hose, as well as keeping things tidy. Make sure the tools are of appropriate size and length. Also, be sure that the tools are not too heavy. Heavy tools can also cause a muscle strain to your back. Have you ever tried to rake and gather leaves, by yourself, with only a plastic rake? It can be a frustrating struggle. The use of leaf scoops and leaf bag holders change the task considerably. The better quality the tools and if kept in shape (i.e.: keeping scissors, trowels, and hedge trimmer’s sharp) make your job a lot easier.
Slowly stretch your muscles before and after gardening to pull on those muscles that have been stressed and bunched up while working out.
Bring the Garden To You
If your health or mobility do not allow for full range of motion and getting down on the ground is not possible, bring the garden to you with a raised bed. Many associate raised beds with gardens with soil built up 6-12 inches from the ground. For some, this is not enough. Why bring it up to waist high and eliminate, or significantly decrease the need to bend or lift anything from the ground.
Using proper body mechanics can allow you to enjoy the physical and mental benefits that gardening allows without pain. So have fun and be safe.
The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.