Gardening gives such a sense of satisfaction when the end result has created something beautiful. It’s also a fun thing that can be done as a family, letting the kids help pick weeds and dig in the dirt. It gets everyone outside and moving. Gardening can be for the peace and calming effect or for the fun of spraying family members with a hose.
But, gardening definitely isn’t any of these things if you are suffering from back pain while doing it. You may be using the kind of body mechanics that create pain.
Below is a list of the common gardening chores and how to do them correctly to avoid back pain.
When shoveling dirt (or snow, for that matter) there is a way to minimize strain and excess muscle tension. Make sure to have your body face the same direction as the shovel to avoid too much twisting. Bend your knees and hinge from your hips keeping your back straight. This will avoid too much strain on your back.
Be smart about how much dirt you are putting in the shovel to avoid lifting something that is too heavy. If you find you are bending over a lot while digging, stop and do some arching of the back in the other direction to give it a break.
Avoid standing and bending over for long periods of time while picking up weeds.
If you can, get on your hands and knees. Another strategy for extended weeding sessions is sitting on a bucket or stool. If you have knee, hip or back pain, sitting will help you avoid putting pressure onto those areas, but make sure to hinge at the hips while sitting again to keep that back straight.
3. Lifting Plants and Bags of Soil
When lifting, the first rule is to use common sense. Many times a bag of soil is just too heavy. Enlist someone to help you. When lifting is unavoidable, make sure you bend from the hips and knees, rather than the waist. For lifting and carrying heavy weights, the hips are more powerful and better equipped to deal with the load than the back.
When picking up something heavy, bring the item in close to your chest. This will decrease the force on your back. A big key to preventing injury in the garden is to break the habit of bending at the waist when you lift.
4. Dumping Out the Wheelbarrow
When emptying a wheelbarrow, think about using your whole body weight to help you avoid strain. First, get yourself in a squat position close to the wheelbarrow so that you are lifting from underneath, including using an underhanded grip. Again, bend from the hips and knees, not the back.
As you straighten up, keep a long spine and lean your body weight in toward the wheelbarrow to tilt it and empty out the contents.
5. Get Your Mower Moving
Maintain a constant elbow angle to help avoid upper back and shoulder strain when pushing the mower. Don’t let the mower get too far out in front of you which will put the back in a compromising position. When going uphill, get underneath the mower and bend your knees and hips to push and resist the urge to straighten out your arms to push it.
As always, maintain a long spine so that you can access your powerful hip and leg muscles and save your back from strain.
Get help with pain!
If all the gardening excitement has led to a tweak in your back, neck, hip or knee give us a call at 303-778-7246.
The therapists at Specialized can help you get back into order before your flowers bloom. Give us a call!