Gardening is a favorite activity for many of us and although it may not seem strenuous, it can really throw a wrench into creating and maintaining your beautiful yards and gardens. Here are a few tips that can help protect your back before, during and after.
- Warm up first
Gardening can be a real workout, so warming up your muscles first is a good idea. Try a brisk five-minute walk and some stretching exercises. One relatively gentle stretch is a single knee to chest, in which you lie down on your back, then pull one knee to your chest at a time alternating legs. Lower trunk rotations are another good warm up exercise, start by laying on your back, then with your legs flexed gently rotate them side to side. Try to avoid painful movements.
Try to work smarter not harder. Move the materials/plants to their desired location first. Use a wheelbarrow or wagon to assist in moving heavier objects.
- Lift from Your Legs, Not Your Back
Even if you are picking up a glove that landed in the dirt, use your knees and legs to bring your hands to the ground instead of bending over from the waist with legs straight. To lift correctly, begin by squatting, use both hands to hold the object, keeping it close to your body, and slowly straighten your legs as you lift. Try to minimize twisting and turning at your trunk and slowly lower the object in the reverse order as you lifted it.
Think about positioning yourself close to or over your working area so you’re not reaching too far. You can also find long handle tools to decrease the need for reaching or bending over. Heavy-duty kneelers, especially those with raised, padded handles can help you get up and down, and allow you to use your arm strength to aid in the process. Kneelers usually include a well-cushioned base to reduce stress and impact on your knees and back. Many kneelers also convert to a low chair.
- Take breaks and stay hydrated
It’s easy to lose track of time when you love being out in the yard. Take a water bottle with you as a reminder to take frequent breaks. If you’ve been in one position for a while, do some stretches during these breaks. Also, avoid doing the same kind of job, such as pruning, and or weeding for a long period of time. Switch to another activity or take a break. You can also alternate which hand you are using to avoid an overuse injury.
- Lastly, know yourself
Know your limitations and set realistic goals on what can be accomplished. Set aside enough time to complete your task and take breaks. For larger projects plan on doing parts of it on different days, and when needed get help. Knowing that a task is too much and that you need a helping hand will go a long way in protecting your back.
If you are having trouble performing gardening because of aches and pains, contact your local ProFlex Physical Therapy location to have one of our expert physical therapists evaluate you and go over a treatment plan including stretching, strengthening and a home exercise program that is tailored to your needs. Don’t let bad form or aches and pains keep you from what you love.