Gardening burns calories, has therapeutic qualities, and is good for your overall health and wellness. But, like any other exercise, there is risk of injury, and you may have a few aches and pains after using muscles you don’t normally use in other aspects of your life.
Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints associated with gardening, but there are steps you can take to help avoid this issue and ensure your gardening experience will be enjoyable and comfortable.
To get you started, here are five ways you can protect your back while gardening.
1. Use the right tools.
Using the right tools will help get the job done faster and with lower risk of injury. A wheelbarrow or garden cart can help you transport bags of soil, long-handled gardening tools allow you to stand while you dig or hoe, a gardening bench provides a comfy spot to sit while you pull weeds, and a potting bench will help you limit bending, stooping and reaching by allowing you to comfortably prune potted plants or transplant seedlings while standing. If you plan on spending a lot of time at your gardening bench, you may also want to invest in a stool or a cushioned anti-fatigue mat to take even more strain off your back and joints.
2. Build or buy raised garden beds.
Raised garden beds that are just a few inches off the ground are good for your plants, but tending them will require just as much bending, stooping and squatting as tending an in-ground garden. To reduce the risk of aches, pains and back injuries, build or purchase garden beds that are about as high as your hip or waist. Keep in mind that you will save a lot of money on potting soil if you choose raised garden beds that are on legs rather than garden beds that will need to be filled from the ground up.
3. Lift and bend properly.
Even with raised garden beds and all the right tools, you cannot completely avoid lifting and bending when gardening. Visit your favorite gardening or home improvement website to find videos showing proper bending and lifting techniques to avoid back injuries while gardening.
Stretching and warming up your muscles is always a good idea, even when your upcoming activity is a low-impact exercise like gardening. Take a few minutes to stretch or walk around the block to loosen up your back and warm up your muscles before you grab your shovel. To further reduce the risk of back pain after gardening, incorporate stretching or yoga into your daily activities. This will help increase flexibility and strengthen your back and core.
5. Do not, under any circumstances, do the twist while gardening.
Twisting to grab the trowel you left a few plants down the row or the pot you set down behind you significantly increases the chance of back pain during or after gardening. This seemingly innocuous movement is one of the most common causes of gardening-related back pain and injuries. So, control your urge to do the twist while working in your garden, and take the extra step or two required to turn around and properly lift that pot without hurting yourself.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a member of The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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