Nothing ruins the pleasure of gardening more than hurting your back – and once you have left yourself chair-bound from putting your back out, you may think twice before venturing out in the garden the next time your gardening duties call. Plus, having a strong and healthy back is essential for enjoying life – especially as you get older.
Here are my top 5 tips for avoiding back problems whilst gardening:
1) Warm up before gardening
Remember, gardening is exercise – so prepare for it how you would any other physical activity.
Before you put on your gardening gloves, take five minutes to stretch your arms, shoulders, back and legs. Don’t rush into each stretch, take your time to make each position and the hold each for around 15 seconds.
2) Garden in positions that are comfortable for you
Do not hunch or bend your back or overstretch whilst working. If what you’re doing is causing you physical discomfort, you should stop doing it. Change your position to find one that works for you – perhaps sitting on a stool (or bucket) whilst gardening makes it easier for you, or using a potting bench to raise your potted plants to chest-height so you can work standing up. This is doubly-import when lifting things in the garden – a good Landscape Gardener will use proper lifting techniques to avoid serious back injury.
To correctly lift an object, stand before it with feet shoulder-width apart. Then, bending your knees and keeping your back perfectly straight, take a firm hold of the object and lift with your legs, not your back.
3) Spend short periods doing one job then move on
Instead of slaving away at a particularly tough and time consuming job, try to spend around 15 minutes on it before moving onto another task which uses different muscle groups. You can always return to the job later in the day.
For instance, if you have been on your knees or working on the ground for 15 minutes, change to a job which involves standing up. By pacing yourself in such a way you can avoid overexerting yourself and causing damage to your muscles/back.
4) Use long-handled tools to avoid bending
You can buy long-handled versions of most gardening tools these days. Long-handled tools enable you to perform all gardening tasks without having to bend down or crawl around on your knees, causing potential damage to your back. Another advantage is the extra leverage provided by the handles means you need less effort to break through tough soil.
Ensure you choose the right length tool for your height. Or, you could always purchase a tool with a telescopic handle which can be tailored to your size.
5) Don’t over-work yourself
Gardening should be a pleasure and something you look forward to, not a chore. If you try to tackle all the heavy-duty jobs at once, you may overexert yourself and increase the chance of you injuring your back. Instead, take a break every hour to enjoy the day and savour the little slice of Heaven you’ve created in your garden. Have a cup of tea with biscuits and read the paper.
If you’re feeling tired, stop working. Always keep in mind that you may have to clear your tools and refuse from the garden at the end of the day, so keep enough energy to perform that task comfortably.