Spring has officially sprung! The days are longer and the weather is warmer. It is the perfect time of year to start a garden. For many, gardening is a source of relaxation allowing for creative freedom and calmness. However, repetitive lifting and bending can cause low back pain while gardening.
Top Tips to Help Reduce Back Pain While Gardening
- Time Management: As enjoyable as it may be, avoid gardening for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time to help manage and reduce back pain. Reducing the amount of time your body is in the same position helps decrease the strain on your low back and hip muscles. Remember to take frequent breaks. Moving every 5-10 minutes helps to reduce over-stressing.
- Avoid Repetitive Bending: Constant bending from the waist while weeding or planting flowers can create pain in the back. The best way to avoid repetitive bending while gardening is to bring yourself to the level of the garden. For some, this may mean having a raised garden bed for easy access. For example, if you need to be near the ground to access your garden, place both knees on a pad, use one hand for support while keeping your back and neck in a neutral position, and use your other hand to the garden. Switch hands frequently to avoid over-stressing.
- Lift Safely: When lifting heavy objects such as soil, plants, or pots you want to avoid loading your spine. For proper lifting, get into a squat position with your feet wide, hinge at your hips like you are going to take a seat, and bend your knees. Get yourself as close to the objects as possible by squatting down, grabbing the object with both hands, and pulling it as close to you as you can. Then, stand up from your squat using your legs to help push you up.
- Stretch: Stretching is one of the best ways to help prevent back pain with gardening.
Top 3 Stretches to Complete Before and After Gardening
Rib Pull Stretch:
This stretch is a great way to loosen your thoracic, or mid spine to increase your flexibility as well as improve your shoulder mobility.
- Lay on the floor/bed on your side with your head supported
- Bend your top hip to about 90 degrees bringing your knee up towards your chest. If you have a foam roller, you can place your top knee on the foam roller
- Place your top hand on your ribs and begin rotating your top shoulder to the floor away from your knee, pulling your ribs in the direction you are rotating
- Keep your knee in contact with the floor or foam roller
- Breathe into the stretch, trying to lower your shoulder down as much as you can
- Maintain this position for about 1 minute
This is a great stretch to help mobilize your entire spine.
- Get onto all fours in a table-top position.
- Place hands under your shoulders and align knees under your hips
- If you have wrist pain, place your hands slightly forward or on a harder surface. For any knee pain use a pillow or cushion.
- Inhale & look up to the ceiling
- Let your spine sink down toward the bed, and allow your belly to fill with air
- Press into your hands and knees as you exhale, tuck your chin into your chest
- Lift your spine towards the ceiling
- Continue in this movement pattern arching up and down for about 1 minute
Single or Double Knee to Chest:
This is a great stretch to help relax your hips, thighs, and glutes as well as promote overall relaxation.
- Lie on your back with legs flat on the floor, knee caps facing the ceiling
- For a single knee to chest, keep your left leg straight out on the floor
- Bring your right knee into your chest
- Place your hands behind your thigh or at the top of your shin bone.
- Lengthen your spine all the way down to your tailbone, avoiding lifting your hips
- Breathe deeply and hold for about 1 minute.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- For the double knee to chest, bring both knees up towards your chest with your hands behind your thighs or at the top of your shin bones
It is important to keep your back healthy to allow you to maintain safe gardening. If you are consistently having low back pain or pain lasting longer than a week, consider seeking professional help from a physical therapist or doctor. Most importantly, physical therapy is a great resource for managing multiple conditions and helps to improve overall posture and body awareness. For more information on how Physical Therapy can help with back pain, learn more by visiting our website.