Tips for a beautiful garden without back pain
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
It's spring again, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Time to use those green fingers again... But what is the best way to get your garden on point again without getting back pain?
I often see people who have been gardening and suffered from back pain because of it. When I then ask what exactly they have done, and especially how, the problem often explains itself.
So in order to prevent this, I hereby present my 7 golden garden tips:
Just like with any kind of exertion, it is important to warm up your muscles before you get to work. Go cycling or walking or do a few stretches, 5 minutes is enough already. When it is cold outside, make sure you dress warm enough to keep your muscles warm - even if you don't feel cold yourself!
Gardening costs energy so make sure you eat sufficiently and drink enough water! If you don't get enough eneryg, your muscles need to work harder. Especially when it's warm outside, your body needs more water than you might think. Combine your breaks with a glass of water!
3. Maintain good posture
Probably one of the most important things to keep in mind whilst gardening. When you bend or lift, make sure you go through your knees, bend from the hips and keep your back straight. Try to avoid bending and twisting simultaneously, for example with raking or digging. It is best to do work close to the ground whilst squatting, or leaning on 1 knee. If you prefer to sit on both knees, wear knee pads to relieve the knees, or sit on a low stool. Always face the direction of your work so that you don't twist! Tighten your abdominal muscles, especially during e.g. lifting and digging by pulling in your belly button towards your spine. This relieves the spine. This tip is not only useful for gardening, but for all sorts of exertion you do throughout the day.
When you need to lift something, again maintain good posture. Keep your feet shoulder width apart for balance and keep the object close to your body. They invented the wheelbarrow for a reason - use it to move heavy items in the garden. If you notice something is too heavy for you to lift on your own, always ask someone for help! Also, if you keep heavy materials on an elevated surface, you won't have to lift them as high and this will reduce the load put on your spine. Furthermore, you can e.g. take soil bit by bit from a heavy bag instead of lifting the whole bag.
5. Spread out work, alternate an take breaks
Try to spread out the work you need to do in your garden - don't do too much in 1 day and when you are e.g. weeding or raking, alternate the side your working with. It's also good to alternate standing and seated work. Also take regular breaks, ideally every 20-30 minutes, so that you don't stay in a certain position for too long. Just a few minutes of rest is enough already. This reduces the chance of overload which in turn reduces the risk of developing back pain. If you get stitches or feel tingling, do not continue to work but take enough rest until the symptoms reduce.
6. Garden tools
These days all kinds of tools exist to make gardening as easy and ergonomic as possible. Use tools with long handles, use a holster to carry your tools so that you don't have to bend over to pick it up. If you use a garden hose, you could make it lighter by using an automatic roll system or if you water your plants with watering cans, only fill them half so that they won't be that heavy for you to lift. If you eve use a leaf blower, try to limit this to phases of maximum 15 minutes, so that your back doesn't become overloaded by the vibrations of the device.
7. Relaxation after exertion
Last but not least: gardening is a form of exertion, and exertion requires relaxation. After gardening, lie on your back with your lower legs supported by a chair, so that the hips and knees are at a 90° angle. Do you experience a slight ache at the end of the day? You can cool the sensitive area with e.g. a cold pack; 10 minutes per hour is sufficient.
After all, don't forget to enjoy your beautiful garden!
Do you still suffer from back pain after gardening despite these tips, or have you been suffering from back pain for a longer while? It might be wise to have your spine checked. Often the pain is caused by overuse of the muscles, however this is often a reaction to the non-optimal functioning of the spine. Please make an appointment.