Not digging your back pain?

 Now the weather is beginning to get a bit warmer there's nothing nicer than spending time in your garden, either working on some gardening or just relaxing. Our gardens are the most perfect place to just spend some time connecting with nature and allowing ourselves to be mindful of the world around us.

For those of you amongst us who are keen gardeners, when did you last stop and think about any bodily injuries that can occur from working in the garden? Lifting pots, moving compost and long periods of time bent over weeding can wreak havoc on our bodies, and many injuries sustained in gardens are related to poor manual handling.

It's always busy at this time of year for osteopaths in clinic as we see many people who have sustained gardening related injuries. Commonly, these injuries are muscle and joint related, and often involve shoulders, lower backs and necks.

So, if gardening is so risky, what can you do to help protect your body from injury? Let's take a look at some tips to help you stay injury free next time you're in the garden:

  1. Do a warm-up! Just like any sporting exercise, gardening is hard work, so it'd worth taking a few minutes to warm up properly. Try doing several light jobs that need doing before moving on to heavier ones.

  2. We are well versed in talking about handling posture at work, but good posture whilst gardening is just as important. Remember, keep your back straight and avoid overstretching or twisting. Keep activities within comfortable reaching distance of your body.

  3. If you need to lift heavy bags of compost, or other heavy items, bend from your hips and your knees, keeping your back straight, rather than bending at the waist.

  4. Digging can be dangerous for bodies, and not only to vulnerable toes… Try standing with a split stance, keep your back straight and your arms close to you. As when lifting, don't twist your body to move earth, turn your whole body instead by moving your feet.

  5. Kneeling pads can be your friend! They create a more tissue friendly environment when kneeling to weed or plant. Make sure you keep both knees on the pad.

  6. You've probably got this point already but avoid bending forwards from your waist to reach the ground. Change your posture to a sitting/kneeling posture or raise the activity up onto a bench if possible, for example, potting in small pots.

  7. Keep tools sharp and in good condition to reduce the energy required by you. Also consider using long handled tools rather than bending.

  8. Rather than spending long periods of time on the same job, split activities into smaller chunks and different postures to avoid repetitive strain injuries. 20 minutes weeding, then 20 mins potting on a table, followed by moving pots, then back to weeding again may be laborious, but your body will definitely thank you!

  9. Take breaks! Regular breaks gives you time to rehydrate with a drink and have a quick stretch whilst you enjoy the view.

  10. This one is really simple, but often forgotten: Listen to your body, and if it hurts, then stop. Pain is the body's warning sign that something isn't right.

Gardening is so rewarding. Whether it's just for your enjoyment to sit and take in the view, or you grow your own vegetables each year, there is so much benefit to be had. With a little careful planning you can easily reduce the risk of causing yourself an injury but still get all the necessary jobs done.

If you are finding that gardening is irritating your muscle and joint pains, why not get in touch with us and find out how we can get you out enjoying your garden pain free again!

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