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How to Protect Your Back When Gardening

How to Protect Your Back When Gardening

You can smell it in the air—it’s gardening time!  I love my garden. I can’t wait to get my hands in the earth and start planting.

Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity and is rewarding in so many ways. Still, strenuous activities can do a number on your body, so you’ll want to protect your back from the start. 

Treat Gardening as a Sport

Outdoor gardening is a seasonal activity that requires a tremendous amount of effort and skill. Here are a few other reasons I consider gardening a sport:

·         You’re competing against nature in a defensive position, pulling up weeds and managing growth. 

·         You play offense by maintaining a healthy environment free of pests, taking back territory in various parts of your garden.

·         You’re racing against the clock and only have so much time to rake the leaves, lift the soil, shovel the manure, and stir the compost.  

·         You work all your muscles, sweat a bunch, and feel exhausted yet exhilarated.

Gardening is fruitful and rewarding in multiple ways, but some tasks can lead to back pain if done without support or improper posture.  As a chiropractor, I see gardeners who’ve been pulled from their garden for weeks because of back or neck pain.  Let’s talk about which chores may need to be avoided or modified to protect your back and body. 

Tasks Most Likely to Cause Back Pain from Gardening

The #1 way to herniate a disc is bending forward and twisting.  It may seem like no big deal to grab a bag of mulch and throw it over your shoulder, but those movements can throw your back out and force you out of the garden for at least a couple of weeks.

Mixing and sowing tight soil can seriously pull those muscles in your arms, neck, and shoulders. And don’t forget about your wrists!

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Pulling weeds while bent forward can damage your neck and shoulders. 

What can you do to protect your back when gardening?  Let’s review a few tips to help you prepare for this season of growth. 

Pro Tips to Protect Your Back and Body While Gardening

1.       When performing repetitive activities with a weak back, a back brace can be helpful. Be sure to remove it as soon as you’re done gardening, though. Wearing the brace when you aren’t active will make your muscles and your core weaker over time.

2.       Spend about 10-15 minutes warming up and stretching your muscles before you start.

3.       Don’t go more than 20 or 30 minutes in your gardening chores.  Take frequent breaks and stretch your body in those few minutes. 

4.       When lifting heavy things, always face the object you need to raise and use your legs.  Never bend over to lift objects, even empty pots. 

5.       Don’t reach!  Use ladders or step stools to get something heavy from above your head. 

6.       Gardening from your knees uses your hips and saves your back from stress and strain. You can also hop on the trend of vertical gardening and do it from a standing position, or you can bring the pots to you on a table. 

7.       Get all your equipment ready to go before you start.

8.       Involve the family! When kids help grow food, they are more interested in eating their veggies.

You don’t have to miss out on the benefits of gardening due to a weak back.  Even doing something minor, like a few pots on your balcony, can bring you a sense of calm and work a few muscles in the process.  If you do happen to experience back pain from gardening, get in touch with us here at Slovin Chiropractic Center in Norwalk.  We can help you get back into the soil quickly and safely. 

Sources:

Rainy Side Gardeners: Gardening is a sport

Omron Health:  12 Gardening Tips for Lower Back Pain Management

Spine-Health:  11 Ways to Keep Gardening with Back Pain

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