Photo Courtesy of M. Dolly
Keeping a garden brings us serenity, peace, and tranquility. We think of gardening as being relaxing and meditative. And all of those joyful traits go right out the window when you start to experience back pain while gardening. If your lower back hurts when bending over, or when straightening up from bending, gardening quickly goes from being a calming pastime to a difficult chore.
Once you’ve already hurt your back, it can be difficult to fight the pain. Continuing to bend and stress your back only exacerbates the problem. Get off of your feet for a few days and rest until you’re well again. If you experience pain for more than a few days, it might even be a good idea to talk to your doctor. When you’re finally ready to get back out into the garden, follow these preventative care tips to avoid injuring yourself.
Stretch Before Gardening
Gardening is strenuous work, and your muscles need to be ready for their exercise. Start by going on a brisk walk around the block a few times to get the blood flowing and to loosen up your muscles.
Slowly stretch your back by lying down and pulling your knees up to your chest. Then, tilt your knees slowly to the side, and then the other. If you feel any pain, stop immediately. This will stretch out your the muscles around your spine. You should also do some waist-bends from a standing position, to stretch out the spinal cord and back muscles. Touch your toes if you can!
Always Lift From the Knees
If you’ve never worked in a warehouse, one of the first things you’re taught is safe lifting. Never lift heavy objects by bending over and hoisting with your back muscles- this is a recipe for a harsh back pain.
Instead, you should squat with your knees, use both hands, and keep your back as upright as possible. Use your leg muscles to support the weight as you lift the heavy object. Stressing your back to lift will quickly cause your lower back to hurt when bending over.
Use the Right Tools for the Job
Especially if you already have lower back pain when straightening up from bending, you don’t want to do any more heavy lifting than necessary. If your lower back hurts when bending over, use wheelbarrows and carts to haul around heavy bags of fertilizer or loads of mulch.
You can plan ahead for your gardening back pain prevention by using raised pots and flower beds, and keeping heavy objects on sturdy, raised shelving. Keeping everything at arm-level helps you avoid the need to bend from your back at all. If you have to get down on your knees, using a garden kneeler or a garden stool can help avoid upper back pain from sitting, and will take the stress off of your waist and knees, as well.
Don’t Overdo It
If you live a highly active and fit lifestyle, you may be able to tend your whole garden in one quick trip to the backyard. But if you’re more sedentary, or if you experience chronic back pain while gardening, do your gardening work in short bursts. You don’t have to plant the whole field at the exact same time, or even on the exact same day.
Additionally, share the load with other members of your household- especially if they’ll be sharing in the harvest! Avoiding back pain while gardening is as simple as being mindful and preparing ahead of time. Get rid of upper back pain from sitting and lower back pain from straightening up or bending over and perform these simple preventative steps to keep yourself healthy and injury free.