10 Ways to Avoid Back Pain in the Garden
Wear good shoes- Our feet are our foundation and it is important to protect them and treat them well, especially while doing yard work. Of course, it would be great if we were all in great shape, had super strong feet and could walk around barefoot in the grass, but this isn't practical for most of us.
Warm up- Some garden activities are more strenuous than others. You can do some light walking before starting or you can just do the lighter work in the beginning of your day and build up to the more intense activities as you go.
Lift smart- This is surely something that we have all been told before, just a friendly reminder to use those legs and don’t bend at the back while lifting. Even lifting light objects like a rake can cause pain if done improperly.
Be cautious while bending- Doing light labor such as weeding the garden may seem harmless, but being in a bent over position for a long time can cause some serious problems. Watch out for the pinch when coming back up. I have found that kneeling gets you just as close to the ground, without the strain on the back. Some people may choose to use a light pad to kneel on.
Drink water- Another piece of advice that is always true. Our muscles need to be fully hydrated during even light physical activities. Drinking other beverages such as coffee or sugar drinks/soda can dehydrate you. Just think, for every cup of coffee or sugar drink, you need to add an extra glass of water just to remain neutral.
Have a plan/don’t go straight to the couch- It can be tempting to go straight to the couch when completing a hard day of yard work, but just as it is important to warm up, it is important to cool down. I always like to plan time for a slow walk through the garden or around the neighborhood when I am done with my chores for the day.
Keep the core tightened/ strong- Despite what you may think, we all have “abs”. They are there, don’t forget to squeeze them when bending or lifting. Ideally, we all spent the last couple months doing core exercises to build those muscles in preparation for the spring, but we all know that isn’t probably what most of us did.
Use proper tools/long enough handles - Using the wrong tool for the wrong job can make the project you are working on take too long and can cause excessive effort that could even injure you. Make sure your shovel is long enough, not bent and has the right head. Don’t use a flat head shovel to dig a hole and use a fork when doing chores like mulching. A fork will provide less resistance and strain on your back when stabbing into a pile of mulch.
Use both hands- This might sound odd, because most people have a dominant hand, but it is possible to shovel the opposite direction. It may not be quite as efficient, but it will give your spine a break from twisting one direction all day long.
Come get adjusted- Of course keeping the spine moving will help you feel better after you hurt yourself in the garden, but it will also help prevent injuries from happening in the first place. By having good mobility in the spine you will be less likely to “twinge” something or hurt yourself.
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