Is pain preventing you from enjoying the hobbies that you love? Here are a few gardening and yard work tips to help you avoid experiencing back pain.
1) Warm-up. It is essential to get your body prepared for the rigorous demands of gardening and yard work. A brisk 5-10 minute walk around the house or in the yard can suffice to get your blood flowing and muscles warmed. If you have any previous aches/pain or stiffness, it is essential to perform your Physical Therapy Home Exercise Program prior to heading out into the yard.
2) Gather all the right tools. As in any job, if you do not have the right tools, the job becomes that much more demanding, no only in time, but also physically.
- Use a raised platform for your plants: A raised platform can help avoid any bending or twisting when you are maintaining your plants, or doing some weeding.
- If gardening in the ground, consider using a bucket to sit on: When you are sitting on a bucket, be sure to position yourself so that the weight of your body is supported through your bones, not through sitting in some awkward position and you are having your muscles hold you up. Make sure when sitting, you are actually sitting on your two sitting bones, so that you have a firm connection between you and the bucket.
3) Keep an eye on your body mechanics. It is essential to keep good posture while working the yard. The more bending over that is required on the job, the more important that using the right body mechanics is key. Avoid excessive forward bending at the trunk; utilize the strength of your legs to perform a lunge or squat to do your heavy lifting.
- Avoiding excessive twisting maneuvers. Work on the plants and ground in front of you. Twisting maneuvers, reaching behind you or to the side puts significantly more stress on your back and you risk increased chance of having back pain.
- If you are unable to squat, try kneeling. You may also utilize a foam pad to kneel on to take some stress off your knees.
- If unable to squat or kneel for an extended time. Try to perform in a seated position. Utilize a small chair or bench, or even an unused heavy duty plantar will suffice.
- When mowing the lawn, make sure that your shoulders are relaxed (away from you ears), and your back is flat (should be able to rest a pole from the back of your head to your tailbone). Also propel the mower with your legs, to maintain a forward lean from the ankles to your head.
4) As with all physically demanding activities, stay hydrated! Although staying hydrated might not always come to mind when thinking about gardening and yard work tips, but it is key to stay hydrated with water, sports drinks, and iced teas to avoid side effects of dehydration (be careful with high caffeine as it causes your body to dispel water); this will also decrease your soreness the rest of the day.
5) Stop any activities that cause you pain. Your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. If it goes away quickly, try again, but if the pain comes back or persists, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to assess the issue.
6) Finally, cool-down. A nice 5-minute walk around the yard to review all your hard work. Then end with some nice easy stretching to reduce your evening stiffness and soreness that will ensue.
Working in the garden and in your yard can be thoroughly enjoyable. Make sure to keep these gardening and yard work tips in mind to prevent back pain from slowing you down.