24 Jul Yard Work? Gardening? Tips to Protect Your Back
Summertime is here and that means gardening season. Most people have spent more time at home these last few months and many have been using it to redesign their backyards or plant a garden from scratch. Gardening and yard work can be very therapeutic and calming and helps to decrease anxiety—a great activity for overall mental health when things are a bit crazy.
But gardening shouldn’t be a pain—and it certainly shouldn’t cause or contribute to increased lower back pain, strain, or injury.
Here are some helpful tips for back safety while doing yard work or gardening:
- Stretch— While you’re not running a marathon, yard work can be very physical. According to the American Chiropractic Association, your chances of injuring your back increase if you don’t prep your body first. Before you begin, stretch your entire body slowly and thoroughly and take deep breaths, inhaling as you stretch and exhaling as you relax. Stretch your muscles as far as you can comfortably. Doing this prior to any physical activity is always recommended.
- Proper Bending & Lifting—After warming up by stretching, remember to utilize proper techniques while you do the actual work. Weeding while in a bent-over position can cause a lot of stress onto your lower back, for example. Good body mechanics are essential.
- Instead of bending over, bend your knees, squat or kneel
- As you kneel be conscious of your position and use a knee pad or have one knee on the ground and the other up, switching periodically.
- Keep your tools close by and avoid any jerky movements
- Don’t do the same thing for too long. Switch up your activities as you garden to protect yourself from repetitive motion injuries.
- Never lift with your back muscles, use your thighs and buttocks.
- Good Shoes—If you plan to spend a lot of time in your garden, wearing the right shoes is important. You’ll want a shoe with a non-slip sole that’s waterproof and provides good support. Make sure they fit properly and are comfortable to avoid blisters. Here’s a great guide for some of the best, most supportive gardening footwear.
- Tools, Pads & More—There are lots of products on the market made specifically for gardening with your back and knees in mind. Tools with long handles can help by eliminating some of the bending required while pulling weeds or planting. There’s a variety of moveable or wearable knee pads that are great for reducing strain on your knees if you have to kneel, including ones made of memory foam. Also, consider using a kneeler that will help you to get up and down.
- Take Breaks—Taking frequent breaks to stand upright and stretch will work tremendously to aid in the prevention of back strain or injury while doing yard work or gardening.
‘Tis the season to be outside! Gardening, planting and watching things grow or bloom is an extremely satisfying activity with benefits to mental and physical health. Take the necessary precautions to ensure that you’re protecting your back and body while cultivating your green thumb.