It’s gardening season! While gardening is a great way to get outside and stay active, it can also be a source of unwanted aches and pain. Thankfully, there are 5 easy steps to take to stay safe and avoid back pain while gardening this spring.

Maintain good posture while gardening

This includes when lifting or carrying heavy objects. Using poor lifting mechanics and repetitively bending and flexing at the waist are surefire ways to develop low back pain while gardening. Repetitive bending movements put excess strain on the lower back. Instead of bending and flexing at the waist, try bending at the knees, using squat or lunge positions. When carrying heavy bags of soil, keep them close to the body, and avoid twisting the body while carrying. Movements while carrying should be slow, deliberate, and controlled. Next time you’re trying to be “efficient” and just power through, take the extra second to do handle your gardening tools the right way. It may take an additional second here and there, but that extra time is imperative to prevent an injury.

Use Garden Tools

Tools are designed to help us accomplish tasks effectively and efficiently. Garden tools allow us to maintain good posture and avoid injury or overuse of muscles and joints. For example, wheelbarrows allow us to lift heavy objects safely. Rakes and shovels with a long enough handle allow us to stand and avoid excessive and repetitive bending movements. When raking, tilling, or shoveling let your legs do the work and protect your back by engaging the glutes. Unpack your tools from the shed and avoid back pain while gardening.

Change positions frequently & take regular breaks

Attempting to tackle a garden project in as little time as possible may be appealing, but this isn’t always the best strategy when it comes to weekend projects. Intentionally pacing yourself and taking breaks is imperative to prevent injury or pain while gardening. The body usually gives warning signs when it needs a break. When we start to notice new aches and pains or increases in regular pain levels, this is the body signaling that you need to modify your activity or movement, or take a break. Neglecting to listen to our bodies can lead to unnecessary injuries, making that ‘quick’ day project take much longer to accomplish. Regular breaks to stretch and hydrate reduces the likelihood of injury, prevents stiffness and soreness, and reduces swelling. In addition, staying hydrated while out in the sun is important for body temperature to maintain regularity. For most of us, taking a short break every hour or less will keep us injury-free.

Consider modifying your garden.

If we are trying to do all the right things like use proper form, utilize garden tools, and take regular breaks, and gardening is still uncomfortable or causing additional pain, there are other ways to still enjoy this popular spring activity. Raised garden beds or pots for gardening allow the full experience of gardening without stress on the body required to upkeep or maintain a ground-level garden. Make your garden work for you and your abilities!

Condition yourself before gardening season

Gardening requires the use of many different muscles and joints. It requires the ability to stand, kneel, squat, lift, and bend. When we aren’t prepared for the physical requirements of gardening it results in injury. How can we prevent this? The simple answer is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even during the offseason, so we can jump right back into gardening. One of the ways to avoid injuries while gardening is to be adjusted. Chiropractic adjustments increase joint mobility which results in decreased pain and improved range of motion. Another way to avoid injury while gardening is to work on flexibility, core strength, and stability. Many Minnesotans easily fall into a sedentary lifestyle  in the winter. The problem with a sedentary lifestyle is muscles become weakened over time. In essence, when we don’t use our muscles, we start to lose them. Diving straight into spring gardening after being sedentary all winter can result in potential problems. Conditioning ourselves, and being proactive in maintaining a healthy spine prior to starting activities in the garden keep us out of pain.

Gardening is an excellent activity for physical and mental health for people of all ages. Stay safe and avoid back pain this spring with the 5 gardening tips. If you injure yourself while gardening, seek a back pain expert right away for the most effective recovery, and continue the outdoor activities you enjoy. Call 507-934-3333, or visit us at risingsunchiro.com for more information about preventing back injuries this spring!

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