10 Tips to Avoid Back Pain from Gardening
Gardening is good exercise, but it is easy to forget about the physical part when we are busy trying to get through our list or chores or if we truly enjoy it as a hobby. However, ignoring the fact that it really is exercise that burns calories and uses muscles we may not use much in other areas of our lives can lead to pain or injuries.
Back pain is a common issue among avid gardeners and folks who do their own yard work, but there are many things you can do to avoid gardening back pain and make your time working in the yard more comfortable and more enjoyable.
Since we want you to spend your time enjoying your outdoor living areas and not suffering from the pain of maintaining them, here are 10 tips that can help you avoid back pain when completely yard work tasks.
10 Tips to Avoid Gardening Back Pain
1. Improve Back Strength and Flexibility: The best way to avoid back pain while gardening is to prevent it from happening. While it may not be possible to completely avoid some aches and pains while working in the yard, you can reduce the risk of this occurring by strengthening your back and improving your flexibility through low-impact activities, such as stretching and yoga.
2. Stretch and Warm Up Before You Garden: Gardening can be quite a workout, so it is best to treat it like one. To prepare your body for the coming exertion, be sure to warm up and stretch your muscles beforehand. You can warm up by taking your dog for a walk, hopping on the treadmill for 10 to 15 minutes, or walking around the block while you drink your morning coffee.
3. Use Proper Bending and Lifting Techniques: This is a big one and should be high on your list of ways to avoid gardening back pain. We recommend checking out photos or videos on your favorite health and wellness websites to see proper form in action. A basic example would be to avoid bending over when you need to pull weeds or plant plants in the ground. Instead, kneel on a cushioned kneeling pad while performing these tasks. Another example would be lifting by bending at your knees – not at your hips – using both hands to hold the object and keeping the object close to your body as you raise up by straightening your legs (all while keeping your back straight).
4. Invest in a Gardening Bench: A simple gardening bench or stool is a cost-effective way to increase your comfort while gardening and help avoid gardening back pain. This is a particularly important tool if you garden at ground level or just above ground level. Using a bench will allow you to sit while you work and will place you closer to what you are working on to limit bending and reaching. Some garden benches can also be flipped over to function as a cushioned kneeling platform, so if your yard work requires you to get low to the ground, a multipurpose bench and kneeling pad would be a very good addition to your garden shed.
5. Avoid Twisting: It is worth taking the couple of extra steps required to turn around to pick something up or to move down the row before working on the next plant. By doing this, you can avoid twisting, which is often one of the main culprits when people experience back pain after yard work.
6. Use Wheelbarrows, Wagons or Garden Carts: To avoid carrying heavy soil, planters and other gardening must-haves, invest in a wheelbarrow or garden cart – or commandeer your kid’s wagon – to wheel your plants and soil around your garden.
7. Use Tools that Allow You to Stand: Long-handled gardening tools are available for almost any yard work implement you might need, which means you can dig holes for your plants, rake leaves, pull weeds and hoe your rows all while standing upright. This is not going to completely remove the need to bend or stoop, but it can reduce it.
8. Install Raised Garden Beds: One way to seriously reduce your need to stoop, squat or bend is to install raised garden beds. For this purpose, we are not talking about those short garden beds you can buy at your local home improvement store that only stand six inches or so off the ground. This calls for garden beds that are closer to the height of your hip to allow you to amend the soil, prune plants, pull weeds and perform other tasks while standing upright.
9. Take Breaks: Yard work is an ongoing task that is never really finished, so there is no reason for you to try to accomplish all of your gardening tasks in one day. Make sure to take regular breaks that allow you to sit, walk around or stretch while working in your yard. You might also consider breaking up the tasks to cover several days, which will allow for much longer breaks and more recovery time between tasks.
10. Choose Low-Maintenance Landscaping: A great way to avoid gardening back pain is to simply reduce the time you spend gardening. Choose native plants known to thrive in your area to reduce the need to water and fertilize, use ground covers to limit weed growth, increase the square footage of functional hardscapes in your outdoor living areas, and look for low-maintenance alternatives to replace your higher-maintenance landscaping features. For example, if you replace your natural grass lawn with artificial grass, you will automatically cut out the hours of mowing, watering, weeding, edging, aerating and fertilizing required to keep your lawn looking its best.