Do you love gardening but find it irritates your back and leaves you struggling to stand up again afterwards? I’m Shelley from Miami Physio and I love trees and plants. Keep listening, and I’m going to explain what it is about gardening that irritates backs and what you can do to garden in comfort!
Here’s a little secret – I’ve hurt my own back a couple of times – waterskiing and also lifting a twin pram when my twins were little. I’ve rehabbed and I’m good now. But gardening is something I love, and so I can tell from first hand experience – if you don’t manage how you use your body when you garden, your back will hurt.
If you can relate to this, keep watching to learn some ways to manage your back when gardening.
Firstly – why does your back get irritated when gardening? The biggest problem with gardening is sustained back flexion. That is, bending over for long periods on time – often while you are weeding, planting out, tidying the garden – this is what aggravates your back. If you stay bent over this increases the pressure on the structures of your spine – the discs, the facet joints, the passive tissues (the ligaments) that you are relying on. At the same time the muscles in your lower back are holding tension and get to a point of fatigue. So the pain that you feel can come from any of these structures.
So, what should you do instead?
- Take frequent breaks. Stand up, arch your back backwards to reverse the position and decompress the structures that have been under load.
- Alternate between different tasks in the garden so that you are using different muscles and loading different structures.
- Change postures within the task you are doing. For example, you can bend in a curl, you can bend like a hinge, you can squat, you can kneel, you can sit, you can lunge. There is not one posture that is best or correct, the secret is in movement and the changing of positions.
- Just like any active task – you need to train to be able to complete the tasks from both a strength and endurance perspective. Like any good gardening athlete – if you have good strength then squatting, lunging, bending, straightening, pulling, digging – all the physical gardening tasks – will be easier and you will be less likely to pull up sore, or to injure yourself.
So, if gardening is one of your favourite past-times, and you are struggling with your back – try these tips, or book an appointment for an assessment with one of our physios so that you can get your green thumb back on!