For those of us who love to garden for hours at a time, it’s not uncommon to “feel it” the next day. Whether you’re hoeing the earth, pulling weeds, or planting seeds, all that bending over can do a number on your back.
Gardening should be a positive experience, free of pain. Here are some key ways to reduce back pain in the garden.
1. Do your stretches (and warm ups) before gardening.
There are some easy stretches you can do to loosen up your lower back before picking up the garden trowel. Spending a few minutes on these stretches can work wonders to prevent back pain. All it takes is to lie on your back for some lower back twists, knee-to-stomach stretches, and some pelvic tilts. Check out these back exercises from the Mayo Clinic, that help with lower back flexibility and strength. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076265?s=1
When you perform back stretches, keep in mind that the longer you hold a stretch, the more pain relief it will bring. Turn on soothing music to give you a chance to relax and spend some time on these stretches. Try to hold each pose for 30 seconds or longer, and don’t forget to breathe! It might sound silly, but remembering to breathe can help with feelings of discomfort. And remember: if you have any pre-existing back conditions or injuries, consult your doctor before starting any stretching or exercise program.
Can’t do stretching because of other back conditions? Warm up your muscles with a short walk.
2. Do your squats!
Whenever you lift anything or bend over to do something on the ground, you should never fold over at your waist. Instead, lower yourself to the ground by bending your legs, so your butt lowers to the ground. This helps keep your back straight and strengthens your leg muscles in the process. Win win!
3. Wear knee pads and a kneeling pad for the ground
Much of the time while gardening, it’s beneficial to lower your entire body to the ground instead of bending over. By wearing knee pads (and using a garden kneeling pad like this one from Amazon), you can ensure the least possible damage to your back by reducing the need to bend over.
4. Design your garden so you can stand while gardening
Imagine if you never had to bend over or lower yourself to the ground in order to grow your own food or help beautiful flowers grow. Have you ever thought about installing raised beds so you can stand straight while gardening? It might be an added cost to install raised beds that are high enough to allow you to stand, but it’s all worth it when you think about all that avoided back pain.
Designing a vertical garden is another way to avoid bending over. Check out this Country Living Article about creative ways to plant a vertical garden by clicking this link.
5. Keep it short and sweet.
Keep your time in the garden short. Every five minutes or so, stand up and stretch your back. Change positions frequently. Think about how much help you can receive. If it’s just you, a huge garden might be too much work. Try keeping it small so you don’t feel overwhelmed, and so you don’t feel compelled to spend hours bent into back-painful positions.
6. Use tools that help save your back.
Wheelbarrows are your best friend. Try not to lug around heavy buckets of weeds or dirt without some wheels to assist you. Use long-armed tools so you don’t have to throw out your back. Come on into Stockslagers and ask our knowledgeable staff about which tools they would suggest for easier gardening and for managing back pain.
7. Avoid leaving bare patches of soil where weeds can grow.
Put a tarp over exposed soil, or much so that potential weeds get no sun. The less you have to weed, the easier gardening will be on your back. Even consider growing your garden in pots, which cuts down on weeds and allows you to position the pots up on tables and stands.
All in all, gardening offers many health benefits that are both mental and physical, but your back shouldn’t be sacrificed! Learn to listen to your body, to stop when you start getting stiff or feel pain. And remember: there are plenty of different ways to garden. All it takes is to find the way that works best for you!