Spring is finally here, giving us all ample opportunity to get outside, soak up some much-needed Vitamin D, and enjoy some of our favorite al fresco activities. For many of us, this means spending more time in our gardens. While the results of a well-maintained garden are amazing, all that weeding, mowing, raking, planting, digging can place a significant strain on your lower back.
Don’t risk an injury that may force you to hang up your hand trowel for the season (or longer); follow a few gardening safety tips that can protect your back while you do what you love.
Start With A Stretch Warm Up
Channel your inner yoga with the cat-cow exercise (with your doctor’s permission, of course). Position yourself on all fours with your hands placed directly under your shoulders and your knees bent under your hips. Then, slowly alternate between flexion and extension of your spine. Consecutively arching your back and lowering your belly towards the mat allows you to enjoy a deep stretch that enhances spine flexibility.
Get The Blood Flowing
Not a huge fan of stretching? That’s okay; you can warm up with a brisk 5-10 minute walk instead to get your muscles warm and your blood circulating.
Vary Gardening Tasks
Plan your tasks in advanced and use tools with an adjustable handle to allow working from a seated position whenever possible. Instead of spending long periods of time on a single task, try pruning, raking, and digging at shorter intervals to minimize the chance of overstraining your muscles. Also, using a kneeling pad may also help when on your knees for extended stretches.
Bend And Lift With Intention
Gardening tasks should be performed using the hip-hinge bend technique. Adding a bend to your knees while keeping your back in a neutral position helps to minimize stress on the spine. You can also use a wagon, or practice bringing the plants and heavy items towards you to ensure there’s less strenuous movement needed.
Shovel (Or Rake) In A Proper Stance
Spread your feet to create a wide supportive stance and avoid twisting the body when shoveling or raking. Re-position your feet properly as you move into different spots in your yard, and do not over-shovel too much weight.
When it comes to protecting your back, good arch support is (almost) everything. Yard work can put a tremendous strain on your feet and legs, so invest in some orthotics instead of wearing flip-flops or uncomfortable sneakers.
Take A Break
Pushing yourself over the limit can cause dehydration and exhaustion. Be sure to lift with good posture and know when to stop physical activity to rest and rejuvenate.
When To Seek Professional Chiropractic Care
If you have taken all necessary precautions and still experience back pain after completing yard work, there could be an underlying issue that requires professional chiropractic care. Consult with your chiropractor to explain the frequency of your back pain as well as any proactive steps you’ve already taken to prevent injury prior before performing the physical activity.