From planting new flowers to growing your own fruit and veg, gardening is a rewarding activity that gives you a good workout in the fresh air. Plus, a beautiful garden is the perfect setting to relax and enjoy the summer at home. Since many gardening tasks involve reaching, twisting and bending with heavy tools repetitively though, there’s no hiding that gardening can be tough - especially on the lower back. Often, you’ll have to carry out awkward positions for sustained periods of time, which leads to aches and pains.
A study conducted by Phynova found gardening to be the most common cause of back pain in UK adults over 40. 37% of those surveyed had suffered from back, joint or muscle pain as a result of gardening or mowing the lawn. In order to prevent back pain and injury whilst gardening, we’ve put together some tips:
Make sure your back is ready for the job
Just like any other physical activity, stretching your back muscles will help to loosen them up and prevent strain or injury. Warm-up with some general stretches and slow and gentle back bends, placing your palms at the base of the spine for support.
Invest in the right tools
To avoid bending too much you can buy long handled tools. Check these for their lightness and balance as well, as lighter tools will be easier to manage. If you’ll be hoeing or pruning make sure that your hoe and secateur blades are sharp. This will reduce the amount of effort you’ll need to put in and movements which could harm your lower back.
Set up your garden to prevent back pain
Mowing the lawn when the grass it short, and hoeing weeds whilst they are still young, will also reduce your efforts and the risk of strain. You may even want to adjust your garden to help your lower back by raising your flower beds or setting your workbenches to a suitable height, so that you don’t have to bend down so often.
Review your posture
Instead of bending over from the waist for tasks such as weeding or planting, use a knee pad and kneel down. Keep your back straight and your neck in a natural position. If you need to lift heavy objects, again keep your back straight and bend at the knees, squatting down to lower yourself. Use both hands to lift the object and keep it close to your body when lifting to avoid strain. The same goes if you’ll be using tools for things like digging - keep them as close to your body as you can. If you need to turn around when carrying the item, move with your whole body rather than just the upper body. Only twisting the upper body could put pressure on the lumbar discs of the spine.
Take your time
You might want to get the whole garden done over a sunny weekend, however this can put a great deal of strain on your body. We’d recommend gardening for no more than 30 minutes at a time and taking regular breaks to stretch the back. You can avoid prolonged periods of repetitive bending, gripping or digging by changing up tasks every so often. Switching between three tasks every 10-15 minutes.
If your back pain worsens, stop
If you find that you have a pain in your lower back that begins to ache, or you feel a tingling or numb sensation, it’s time to stop. This may mean that there’s too much pressure on the lumbar discs, and you’ll need to rest to reduce sciatic pain.
Managing back pain
If you are suffering from lower back pain after gardening, visiting an osteopath may help to reduce the pain or swelling and improve mobility. Using a variety of manipulative techniques including massage and soft tissue mobilisation, we’ll engage the whole area surrounding the spine and ensure that the body is properly aligned. Osteopathy is a gentle hands-on approach safe for all ages and each session is tailored to suit your specific needs and lifestyle. So, if you’re ready to give gardening another go or you’d like to know more about osteopathy for lower back pain, you can book an appointment with our registered Solihull practitioners by calling 0121 705 4499.