How To Protect Your Back When Gardening
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Gardening is such a therapeutic activity but it can be rough on your low back if you aren’t careful. The good news is, gardening and back problems don’t need to go together if you know a few things about how to keep your back safe. Learn 5 ways you can protect your back when gardening to prevent low back injuries this spring season.
5 Ways to protect your back when gardening
1. Lift with good body mechanics
Often times, gardening requires you to lift some pretty heavy items.
Here are some things to avoid when lifting:
-DON’T bend over and lift.
-DON’T bend over to put an item down.
-DON’T twist while holding something heavy.
-DON’T carry items away from your body.
Here are the ways to lift safely:
-Squat down to lift, this allows you to keep your back straight and allows your legs to do a lot of the work when lifting.
-When you need to place an item down, bend your knees and squat down with the item to place it on the ground.
-When you need to place something to the side of you, stand up and turn your body (including your feet) to face in the direction you need to place the item. (Basically, don’t twist your back.)
-Keep items close to your body when lifting.
-Keep a wide base of support at your feet.
2. When working low to the ground, be mindful of the position of your back
You never want to be standing and bending forward while performing activities such as planting or weeding.
When planting, either squat down in a low position and keep back flat as you lean forward OR use a kneeling pad and again keep your back flat as you lean forward.
You can find kneeling pads on amazon: Gorilla Grip Kneeling Pad
If you need to sit, make sure what you are sitting on is low enough to the ground so you don’t have to bend forward too much. Again, when leaning forward, try to keep your back flat.
The theme here, as you can see, is to keep a flat back when leaning forward. Basically you don’t want to curve your spine forward (also known as lumbar flexion) to do your gardening.
Don’t do this while gardening:
These positions are better to protect your back when gardening:
3. Take breaks
Our body doesn’t like to be in one position for too long, especially in forward flexed positions.
This is why it’s important to take breaks in order to protect your back when gardening.
If something is starting to feel uncomfortable, listen to your body, don’t just push through it.
4. When taking breaks or when done gardening, WALK DON'T SIT to rest
When we need a break, we tend to think it’s best to sit down and rest.
With gardening, even when you are following all the suggestions in tip #2, your are still in a flexed position.
Sitting is also a flexed position, so basically if you sit after gardening, you’re resting into more flexion. This isn’t ideal for your low back.
So when you take your breaks, walk around. When you are done gardening for the day, walk a little bit before you go in and sit down.
Walking allows movement in the spine and will in essence help loosen up your low back.
5. Try out this exercise while gardening
Before we get into the exercise, let me give you a disclaimer. This exercise is intended to PREVENT low back issues. If you already have back issues, I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist so they can provide you with exercises specific to you.
The exercise is called repeated extension in standing. Basically it’s reversing the position that you’re in while working in the garden. It’s letting your low back go into lumbar extension (the opposite of flexion).
Take caution with this exercise if you have balance issues. If you have issues with your balance, you can try this exercise inside with something behind you for safety such as your bed.
Instructions for the exercise:
1. Stand up with your feet hip width apart and knees soft (not locked out).
2. Place your hands on the sides of your low back, finger tips pointing down to the ground.
3. Gently, start to lean back to wherever is comfortable for you.
4. Keep looking forward, don’t let your head fall back.
5. Only hold this position for about 1 second and then come back up to standing straight.
6. You can repeat this 3-10 times depending on what you feel you need.
7. There should be NO pain. If there is pain, if you feel anything radiating into your legs, or if you feel numbness/tingling, stop the exercise and consult with a doctor or physical therapist.
Video instructions below if needed.
I hope that you find these tips helpful to protect your back when gardening so that you can enjoy this wonderful outdoor activity. Learning about how the body works is so helpful in preventing injuries so you can do all the activities you love!
For further instructions on anything in this post, check out the video below.