Tag Archive for: gardening

Pain when gardening

Six Ways to Protect your Knees and Back when Gardening

Gardening is a favorite activity for a lot of folks – and lately I have been hearing many people having knee and back pain when gardening. To add more frustration to this topic, you might not even notice the pain until hours or days afterwards, which can make it challenging to address.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to protect your knees and back while gardening.

Here are 6 of my favorite tips to manage pain when gardening:

1. Warm up first

Before diving into any activity that you know you’ll be doing repetitively and for more than a few hours, it’s a good idea to warm-up. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or excessive and 10 min is plenty.

Typically, you’ll only be gardening during nice weather. So enjoy it by taking a walk around your neighborhood first. Then do some easy light stretching to lubricate your joints before you begin. It won’t take long but your knees and back will thank you.

2. Avoid bending from the waist

Lifting and carrying heavy bags of soil or plants can put a lot of strain on your back and knees. You really want to make sure you’re using proper posture and body mechanics to avoid problems.

When lifting, be sure to use your legs instead of your back and hold objects close to your body. If you hinge only from your hips, for example, which a lot of people like to do, you will put extra strain on the back of your knees and lower back. Get in the habit of bending your ankles, knees, and hips in unison – kind of like an accordion – so that you build good muscle and body memory and don’t even have to think about it next time you’re gardening or lifting.

3. Take frequent breaks

It’s easy to get lost in the activity of planting and weeding. But even if you’re choosing good postures like I mentioned above – your back and knees still need a break. Our joints don’t enjoy anything when done repetitively or for prolonged periods, but especially too much bending or sitting on your knees. When you bend too much and too often, the discs in your lower back can get aggravated, and when you’re sitting on your knees, it’s a lot of pressure and can annoy your arthritis.

I recommend setting a timer and giving yourself a break every 30 min to change positions. Simply stand up and get out of the bent or sitting posture. Your back and knees will thank you and you’ll be able to garden for much longer and without risk of injury.

4. Pivot instead of twist

Your lower back and knees aren’t really designed to rotate, they are designed for bending and extending. So if you’re not careful – you can strain these areas with poor twisting and turning mechanics. When you have to rotate, you’ll want to pivot from your pelvis.

What does this look like?

Make sure your hips are always in line with the object you are moving and maneuvering. Keep your ribs in line with your pelvis and your pelvis in line with your knees and feet – and always move them as a unit. While it’s ok to bend and twist from your waist or legs on occasion – you’ll find yourself in some trouble when you do this over and over again – especially if you’re already prone to back or knee pain.

5. Use ergonomic gardening tools

The right gardening tools can be of significant help when it comes to maintaining good posture and avoiding overuse of your muscles and joints. Long-handled tools can help reduce the need for bending and stooping, which as already discussed, puts strain on your knees and back when overdone. Another consideration is the weight of your tools. It might be worth the investment to swap out your older, heavier tools for more modern, lightweight alternatives.

When you have to lift something heavy – especially repeatedly – use a wheelbarrow. This valuable gardening tool will allow you to lift and move heavy things with significantly less strain on your back. If you’ve got to be on your knees or squatting a lot – consider using a gardening bench and/or knee pads. These tools will make it easier to sustain activities that require prolonged bending or kneeling.

6. Use beds to raise your gardens

Raised garden beds not only look pretty but they are extremely ergonomic. Especially if you suffer from more chronic back and knee problems. Raised garden beds are elevated off the ground. They are easier to maintain and limit the amount of bending you have to do.

Raised garden beds are relatively simple to build and create. Even if you’re not having problems now with gardening, if it’s an activity you love to do, you might want to consider it. Making the investment in raised gardening beds now could go a long way in preventing knee and back problems in your future.

Gardening has so many positive benefits for both your mental and physical health – and the last thing I want is for back or knee pain to get in your way.

If you are experiencing pain when gardening – Give these tips a try.

But if it’s not enough, don’t give up.

Enlist the help of a musculoskeletal pain and movement expert who can help you figure out the source of your problem and provide you with practical solutions so that you can get back to gardening as quickly as possible.

If you are local to Portsmouth, NH – consider speaking to one of my specialists.

It’s a free, no-obligation call where you can tell us everything that’s been going on with you, and determine for yourself if we’re the best people to help you.

Click here to speak with a specialist.

Senior Man Suffering From Back Pain Whilst Gardening

5 Tips to Avoid Back Pain While Gardening

Gardening has so many health benefits and it’s an activity many people fall in love with. It gets you outdoors in the fresh air, exposes you to vitamin D, it’s meditative, helps to improve hand-eye coordination, and it’s great exercise. But one thing it’s not always great for is your back. If you love gardening – but cringing about what it might do to your back this Spring – keep reading.

Here are 5 tips to avoid back pain while gardening:

 

1. Avoid bending from the waist

A common gardening posture I see is folks standing with straight or slightly bent knees and bending over from their waist – creating an “L-shape” with their body. While this posture is acceptable to do from time to time – it’s not a good idea to do this over and over again while gardening. This particular posture puts a lot of strain on your lower back as well as the backs of your knees. Over time, your lower back muscles will become very sore and tight, which can make them susceptible to injury when you least expect it. What to do instead? Get in the habit of squatting and bending from your knees. If you must do a particular gardening activity for a sustained period – try being on all-fours – and switch your hands periodically. These positions are much better for your back and you’ll be able to sustain the activity for much longer.

2. Take frequent breaks

It’s easy to get lost in the activity of planting and weeding. But even if you’re choosing good postures like I mentioned above – your back still needs a break. Our spines do not enjoy being bent forward for prolonged periods and when you do this for too long without taking a break – it puts a lot of stress on the vertebral discs in your spine and makes them more likely to bulge. I recommend setting a timer and giving yourself a break every 30 min. Simply stand up and get out of the bent over posture. Your back will thank you and you’ll be able to garden for much longer without risk of injuring your spine.

3. Pivot instead of twist

One of the most vulnerable positions for your back is the combination of bending and rotating. And when done repetitively, you’re almost guaranteed an injury to your spine. When you’re doing things like digging or planting – activities that have you bending and twisting – you want to pivot instead. Keep your body in line with the activity you’re doing. Don’t rotate or twist from your waist. How do you do this? Make sure your hips are always in line with the object you are moving and maneuvering. Keep your ribs in line with your pelvis and always move them as a unit. While it’s ok to bend and twist from your waist on occasion – you’ll find yourself in some trouble when you do this over and over again – especially if you have a history of back pain episodes happening to you in the past.

4. Use gardening tools wisely

Gardening tools can be of significant help when it comes to maintaining good posture and avoiding overuse of your muscles and joints. When you have to lift something heavy – especially repeatedly – use a wheelbarrow. This valuable gardening tool will allow you to lift and move heavy things with significantly less strain on your back. If you’ve got to be on your knees or squatting a lot – consider using a gardening bench. This will make it easier to sustain activities that require prolonged bending or kneeling. Lastly, use tools with longer handles to help avoid crouched over postures. If you can maintain a more upright posture while gardening, you’ll be able to tolerate it longer and with less back pain. 

5. Raise your gardens

Let’s face it, gardening involves bending over and lots of it. Activities like this are just not good for your back when done over and over. Consider modifying your garden to include more raised boxes and beds. This is going to make it so much easier to tend to your plants without having to bend over so much. And when you need to create a work surface – make sure that is raised too. Bending forward isn’t “bad” for your spine – but when you bend all the time without giving your back a break – you’re asking for trouble. Modifying your garden to make it more ergonomic can make a huge difference in the health of your spine.

Gardening has so many positive benefits – and the last thing I want is for back pain to be the thing that stops you from doing something you love. Hopefully these tips give you some important things to consider – and more importantly – help you look at gardening as something enjoyable again versus something you dread because of your back.

Do you have nagging back pain that gets in the way of your everyday activities? Request to talk to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

 

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH.  To get a free copy of her guide to taking care of back pain – click here.