Gardening Without Back Pain
Florida has had an especially mild winter so far this year, which has allowed many of us to enjoy the outdoor activities we love, even more than usual. One of those beloved activities is gardening. Florida has a perfect climate for growing many beautiful types of plants, and the weather is perfect right now to get outside. Gardening may seem like an easy-going and relaxing activity, but if done without care, it can lead to debilitating back pain. There are tips you can incorporate into your gardening routine to help prevent that though.
The orthopaedic specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine have come up with 5 great ways to avoid back pain in the garden.
Support Your Back with a Strong Core
The ‘core’ of your body is made up of your abdomen, hips, and lower back. By strengthening your core, it helps support your lower back by stabilizing your body and helping control movement. There are a wide variety of exercises available to help strengthen the various core muscles, but it is always a good idea to consult with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen, to make sure you aren’t in danger of inflicting more serious injuries.
Practice Proper Lifting Techniques
One of the quickest ways to injure your back is to lift something heavy such as a bag of soil, or terracotta pot, using improper technique. Bags of soil, depending on their size can easily weigh 60-80 pounds, and can be cumbersome to try and hold onto properly. The best way to move something big and heavy is to recruit a friend to help, or use something like a rolling dolly. If you are forced to lift it yourself, make sure to follow these tips to ensure you don’t hurt yourself:
- Bend your knees while keeping your back straight. Do not bend at the waist.
- Hold the object as close to your body as possible.
- Keep the object centered on your core, lift it above your knees, but not above your armpit.
- Avoid twisting actions, or turning while lifting. If you need to change direction, use your feet to do so.
A useful guideline to keep in mind is that you generally shouldn’t try to lift anything that weighs more than 20% of your body weight.
Get Low, or Go High
One of the most common causes of back pain while gardening, is the tendency to bend at the waist when pulling weeds, or planting in low beds. Just because you aren’t trying to lift heavy weight, doesn’t mean there isn’t strain being put on your back. The best way to go about taking pressure off your back is to use your leg muscles by squatting down, sitting, or kneeling. If you have existing knee or hip conditions that do not allow you to do so, consider investing in flower beds that are high enough to allow you to stand while you work.
Use the Right Equipment
Making sure you use the right tool for the job not only reduces strain on your body, but will make the work go by quicker and easier as well. Apart from using proper gardening tools like ergonomically correct rakes and shovels, make sure you wear supportive shoes, protective clothing, and gloves.
Give Yourself a Break
We know how tempting it can be to try and complete a project in a single day. Don’t strain yourself trying to get everything done, however. Make sure you ease into the work, warm up your body, do some stretching beforehand, and change your body position often. Try to alternate doing strenuous activities with doing easy ones to give your body a break, and take frequent breaks from your work to ensure that your body has enough time to recover.
Gardening is an incredibly therapeutic and relaxing activity for many people, and is a great way to get outdoors and get exercise. If the proper care is not taken though, the seemingly simple and mundane tasks can put quite a strain on your body. If you are suffering from back pain caused by gardening or improper lifting techniques, let Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine help. Request an appointment online, or give us a call at 904-825-0540.
BRIAN HAYCOOK, MD
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Haycook has specific expertise in the latest treatment of spine related injuries.