5 Proven Ways to Ward Off Back Pain While Gardening

a woman wearing a straw hat and black apron cutting a potted plant having back pain during gardening
a woman wearing a straw hat and black apron cutting a potted plant having back pain during gardening

Now that spring has sprung, many of us are itching to get out into our gardens. It’s the perfect time to plant, prune, and prepare those beds for the coming months. Gardening is a fantastic way to stay active. However, it can come with its challenges, particularly when it comes to our backs.

As a physical therapist, I see many clients with new aches and pains come springtime, often stemming from strenuous gardening sessions. Back pain while gardening is a common complaint that can take the joy out of this activity. But you don’t have to resign yourself to discomfort every time you pick up a shovel!

In this blog, I’ll share five ways to prevent back pain while you garden to keep you safe and pain-free as you tend to your plants.

Let’s dive in!

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5 Tips To Ward Off Back Pain While Gardening

1. Stretching Before Starting

Before you even think about grabbing that spade or hoe, let’s talk stretching. Just like you wouldn’t run a race without loosening up first, you shouldn’t dive into gardening without preparing your body.

Here are some stretches that are especially beneficial for gardeners:

  1. Lower Back Stretches: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your lower back, and gently arch backward, holding for 15-20 seconds.
  2. Hamstring Stretches: You can do these standing or seated. For a standing stretch, put one foot on a low stool, straighten your leg, and lean forward gently over your extended leg until you feel a stretch down the back of your thigh.
  3. Shoulder Stretches: Try the cross-body shoulder stretch. Bring one arm across your body at about chest height, and use the other arm to gently pull it closer to your chest. Hold this for about 20 seconds, then switch arms.

Incorporating these stretches into your pre-gardening routine can significantly reduce the risk of back pain when gardening by increasing flexibility and blood flow, ensuring your muscles are less likely to strain under the stress of gardening.

2. Using Ergonomic Tools

Now, let’s gear up correctly. Ergonomic tools are specifically designed to reduce the strain on your body.

When you’re picking out gardening tools, here are a few ergonomic features to look for:

  • Long Handles: These allow you to work without bending over too much, which can be a lifesaver for your back.
  • Lightweight Materials: Lighter tools mean less strain on your muscles and joints. Look for tools made from materials like aluminum.
  • Padded Grips: These reduce the stress on your hands and wrists, which helps prevent issues in your shoulders and back as well.

By choosing the right tools and taking a few minutes to stretch before you start, you’re setting yourself up for a more enjoyable and pain-free gardening experience. Your back will thank you!

3. Proper Lifting Techniques

When gardening involves lifting heavy bags of soil, large plants, or moving garden furniture, knowing how to lift properly is crucial. Incorrect lifting techniques are a common cause of back injuries in the garden.

Here’s how to lift safely:

  1. Keep Your Back Straight: Before you lift, make sure your back is straight and upright. Hunching or rounding your back can put undue pressure on your spine.
  2. Bend at the Knees: Always bend from your knees, not your waist. This technique ensures that your legs, rather than your back, bear the brunt of the weight.
  3. Lift with Your Legs: As you lift, straighten your legs slowly to stand up. This uses the strength of your leg muscles and protects your back from strain.
  4. Hold Loads Close to Your Body: Keeping the load close to your center reduces the strain on your back. Avoid twisting your body while holding heavy objects.

For very heavy or bulky items — always ask for help. It’s better to use teamwork than to risk a back injury that could keep you out of the garden entirely.

4. Staying Hydrated and Nourished

While it’s easy to get caught up in your gardening, neglecting your body’s need for water and food can lead to dehydration and decreased energy levels, making you more susceptible to injuries and fatigue.

Here’s how to keep your body well-fueled:

  • Hydration: Always have a water bottle handy while gardening. Aim to drink at least a glass of water every hour, especially on hot days, to keep hydrated.
  • Snacks: Opt for snacks that provide sustained energy. Foods like nuts, fruits, yogurt, or granola bars are great for a quick boost without weighing you down.

There you have it! We’ve covered several tips in this post from the importance of ergonomic tools and proper lifting techniques to the benefits of stretching and staying hydrated. Implementing these tips can help you enjoy gardening without the nagging pain after gardening.

Ready To Get Help With Physical Therapy?

Remember, gardening should be a pleasure, not a pain. If you find yourself struggling with persistent back pain despite these precautions, we’re here to help!

At Intecore Physical Therapy, we’re dedicated to helping you live pain-free. Call us at 360-499-0604 or click here to book your appointment.

If you’re not quite ready to speak on the phone, but want some more tips, click here to download our Free Back Pain Tips Guide.

Happy gardening!

Andrew Vertson