Gardening can be great exercise and a good reason to be active outside. Do not let back pain slow you down or decrease the pleasure of planting and tending. The following tips may help you to avoid injury and increase your enjoyment of this springtime ritual.
1 Remember to get checkup by your MD yearly to see if your body is healthy enough for physical activity. You can also see a physical therapist to address mobility and functional deficits. Physical Therapists are experts on knowing how the body works, and are able to create a treatment plan to improve strength, flexibility, and coordination, as well as to counteract incorrect existing patterns of movement that may be damaging to the joints.
2. Proper posture is important. Your legs are made for lifting, not your back. Remember to always square up to what you are lifting and keep a straight spine while bending at the hips. Twisting while lifting puts too much pressure on the spine and can lead to injury.
3. Use tools that are light weight, sharpened properly and designed for the task you are performing.
4. Anytime you can push vs. pull will reduce back strain. A wheelbarrow is a good option to move heavy items. Don’t be afraid to break things down into smaller loads to get the task done with less stress on the body.
5. Avoid using heavy watering cans which can cause poor posture when carried. It would be wise to invest in additional lengths of hose for watering needs of your garden.
6. Remember to take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
7. Consider making raised beds, to reduce the necessity for bending or reaching too far for planting and weeding.
8. Use specialty tools such as a kneeler or mobile gardening bench to keep the body more comfortable close to the ground.
9. Listen to your body. If you experience pain, stop, change positions and watch that you are using good posture habits.
10. Consider taking a walk and perform some light stretching after gardening to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
Physical Therapists are a good resource to advise you on proper stretching, strengthening exercises, and other healthy habits to keep your back and body free from injury.
Dr. Deborah A Mitchell, PT, DPT, MPT, CGS
Owner of Red Rock Physical Therapy and Wellness in McHenry, IL.