How to avoid back pain while working in the garden
It’s that time of the year when we all have to get out in the garden and tidy things up. As a physical therapist we see many overuse injuries from prolonged gardening. Does gardening cause you back pain? You may be using the kind of body mechanics that create pain. This article gives an overview of common gardening chores and how to do them in a safe way for your back.
We will talk about the best body mechanics that you can use to avoid hurting your back while digging, weeding, lifting and mowing. Two of the most important things you can do to minimize pain is to stop often and reverse out of the position you have been in.
When shoveling dirt it is important to use your weight to leverage the shovel. Keep good alignment (avoid twisting), and move your whole body (walk with your feet) when dumping the dirt out of the shovel.
One of the most popular positions for 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 sitting and weeding can stress your back as it puts the spine in a flexed rotated position. Weeding is best done on all fours. The goal is to keep the spine long straight and supported by arms. This stops the spine from being too curved. Kneeling garden stools or knee -pads can alleviate any knee issues that may limit you form this position.
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. A big key to preventing injury in the garden is to break the habit of bending at the waist when you lift. Use carts, wheelbarrows etc to move the heavy stuff.
Maintaining neutral spine, stretching out of prolonged positions and use of simple garden tools like in the websites below can help to reduce back pain, and avoid gardening injuries.