Gardening Technique’s to avoid Back Pain
Gardening requires a lot of lifting and bending whilst pruning a bush can mean over-reaching. Using a shovel or gardening tool can put you in awkward positions, whilst bending forward for long periods, reverses the spine’s natural curves, which will strain ligaments, muscles and even a disc resulting in excruciating back pain.
Learning to lift properly is so important. The unexpected February/March snow and ice tested many people as they shoveled paths and driveways.
Start the process of gardening more safely by being honest with yourself, and recognizing and accepting any physical limitations that you may have. Then allow enough time to complete the work without rushing. Ask for help in moving heavy items.
Using proper lifting techniques can prevent injuries and keep you out in the garden working productively. Don’t garden for more than 30-45 minutes at a time and try and stand up straight every 5 minutes or so. When weeding, try and kneel on a kneeling pad or use a small stool to sit on. Kneeling on one knee is best as being on two puts a lot of pressure on your low back and your leg muscles are stronger than the muscles in your back.
Get in the habit of bending your knees and keeping your back straight when picking things up. Always test the weight of an item by trying to push it with your feet to see how heavy it really is. You can injure your back by bending over improperly and picking up even something small, like a pair of secateurs.
How best to lift things in the garden?
- Focus on keeping your feet about shoulder width apart with your back straight while bending at the knees to raise and lower items.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles to help keep your back in a good lifting position and to prevent excessive load on the spine.
- Look straight ahead versus downward to help keep your back straight.
- Take small, controlled steps if you need to carry a heavy item.
- You will be stronger and more stable if you keep the object you are carrying close to your body.
- Never reach out with a heavy item as this inevitably puts significant strain on your back.
- When bending for small items; stand on one leg and bend forwards for them whilst the other leg moves straight behind you. Hold onto something as you do this if you feel unsteady. That way you don’t strain your knees either. This can be a useful system for those of us with arthritis.
- Plan ahead before lifting and moving a heavy item to help prevent awkward movements during the process. Use a back support like a weightlifters belt or Velcro material back belt. Consider buying one if you do a lot of heavy lifting.
- Be sure that the route is clear, and always get help if you are straining to lift something alone
Stay focused on using good lifting techniques as you work in the garden. Taking a shortcut or rushing can result in an injury that takes you out of the garden for the season or even longer. Warm
up initially especially on a cold day. Don’t start first thing when you are at your stiffest.
Good warm-up exercises that we suggest at the Wimbledon Osteopath include marching on the spot for a minute, lying down on your back and hugging knees and then rocking knees from side to side whilst the knees are bent and the feet are flat. Standing up and doing a few shoulder rolls backwards and then forwards helps too.
How your Osteopath can help?
Both osteopaths are great at checking you over and getting you more flexible for mucking around in the garden. Alessia’s sports massages are perfect for getting the body ready for gardening or treating you after any strain has arisen. Keep your garden looking good by staying fit and agile and we are here to help.
In spring, start your gardening projects slowly, and gradually and increase the length and intensity of work to give your body time to adjust. It is a good idea to ease into spring gardening work even if you have been regularly going to the gym, as you will be using different muscles to garden.
Come to The Wimbledon Osteopath at 18 Daybrook Road for an MOT before you get into trouble. We are always here to help with advice, exercises and great treatments. Dealing with injuries is what we are most well known for, so get in quick so we can sort you out asap.