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back painErgonomicsgardeningUncategorized

Helpful Tips to Avoid Back Pain While Gardening This Summer

Woman with a strong pain in low part of the back while collecting apples in the garden.

Gardening presents a relaxing hobby for many, although it is important to follow specific techniques to avoid back strain and low back pain while gardening. Here are a few strategies to help maintain a healthy back while enjoying the great outdoors:

DIGGING

Digging is a critical gardening movement that requires the right tools to get the job done safely and efficiently. Make sure you have a shovel with sharp edges to reduce the amount of force needed to scoop the dirt. The handle of the shovel should also be long enough to avoid excessive bending. Maintain good posture while using a shovel, and if you find yourself using too much pressure, try to wet the soil to loosen it up. Don’t twist too much when dumping out the soil, but rather move a few steps to get to the dumping ground.

WEEDING

Weeding often requires prolonged sitting or bending over. To avoid excessive bending, it is recommended that you use a stool (a simple low stool will often do the trick) to sit on, which will reduce the amount of pressure put on your low back. This is also a useful technique if one has knee and/or hip pain.

LIFTING

Prolonged lifting of heavy bags of soil and mulch can take a toll on your back. One rule of thumb is to always use your hips to lift up, as these muscles are typically much stronger than your low back muscles. Furthermore, bend at the knees and use the hips to come back up; do not bend your waist. Many people invest in elevated garden beds to avoid excessive bending. If something is too heavy, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your back will thank you later.

LAWN MOWING

It is imperative to maintain proper posture while using a lawn mower as poor technique can lead to increase strain, and in turn, low back pain. Also pay attention to your arm position. Proper form allows a slight bend at the elbow with the handle at a comfortable level (not too high or low).

5 GARDENING BASICS FOR EVERY GREEN THUMB:

  1. Make sure you are conditioned and ready for spending prolonged time in the garden. Don’t rush into gardening after long periods of inactivity. You may benefit from our Wellness Center for strength training.
  2. Planting perennial flowers and plants is a great way to avoid additional time in the garden every season.
  3. Make sure you are well hydrated while spending hours outside. It is a good idea to wear light colored clothing and a hat, and plant in shaded areas.
  4. Listen to your body and take breaks every 15-20 minutes to stretch and rest.
  5. Make sure to have long enough handles on your tools to avoid excessive bending.

*If you continue to suffer from low back pain while gardening despite these techniques, you may want to schedule a consultation with a physical therapist prior to continuing to garden.

Andrea Baker PT, ATC, AT/L

Andrea Baker PT, ATC, AT/L

Andrea is the owner and founder of Dynamic Bracing & Physical Therapy, Inc. She graduated with a B.S. in Physical Therapy and won the Faculty Recognition Award from Eastern Washington University in 1994. She is skilled in Fascial Counterstrain and is also a Certified Athletic Trainer. Her highest priority is making her patients better. She combines advanced treatment techniques with patient education, and is sought out for her ability to handle complex and chronic cases where other treatment methods have failed. Andrea feels the profession of physical therapy requires lifetime learning and supports the entire physical therapy team in regularly attending continuing education courses. Andrea is a Spokane native and mother of two. She is an active parent who volunteers at Garfield Elementary and North Central High School. She is passionate about healthy living and spends as much time as possible enjoying nature and the outdoors playing sports, gardening, camping, and hiking in the woods. She enjoys cooking with organic foods and educating people about the benefits of essential oils.