Prevent Back Pain From Gardening

Holly B. is an active professional in her late twenties who spends her free time playing recreational flag football and league basketball. She recently tore her ACL and will be sharing her experiences with us as she works towards getting back into sports.

I still remember when I was younger how a pair of elderly ladies commented about the way I was bent over in the flowerbed, “Oh, your back will be regretting that one day.” I had no idea what they meant.

Now that I’m recovering from my ACL reconstruction surgery, I’m more aware of how the various activities I participate in can affect my body – especially gardening. Since I’ve had some free time during my ACL recovery, I’ve looked up some ways to prevent back pain from gardening.

  • Keep your back straight. When you’re weeding, get down on your knees or kneel on one leg. Lean forward to get the weeds and keep your back hollow. Don’t stoop over. Think of your torso as one solid unit.
  • Use a gardening stool. If you suffer from knee pain or can’t kneel, this is a good alternative. Try to keep your back hollow as you work. This is how I’ve managed to tone down the weeds in my yard, even though I’ve only been out of surgery for a month!
  • Wear a back brace. A back brace provides compression and helps keep your spine in the proper position. It also serves as a reminder to keep your back straight.
  • Warm up and stretch before gardening. I know you’re not going for a jog, but it will keep your muscles limber as you move around in the yard.
  • Mix up what you’re doing. Change up your activities in the garden. Weed for 10 minutes, then water some plants, then trim the suckers off your tree, etc. It gets hot out there so it’s a good excuse for a water break!
  • Get the right tools. I spent hours trying to dig up some weeds. Then my mother-in-law hacked at the ground with a pickaxe and the weeds came up out of the loosened dirt with no problem. Sounds silly, but it saved me from having to bend over for long periods of time.

Long hours in the hot sun, stooped over and pulling at weeds, or digging up rocks to plant some new flowers… all of this can have a negative effect on my back. I’m hoping the measures I take now will help in the long run!

References:
About.com – Back & Neck
FitSugar.com
Virginia Tech