Here in California, gardeners enjoy being able to get out in the yard year round. Whether it is raking leaves, weeding, pruning or planting, there is always some task waiting to be done. So it’s no surprise that I see patients with injuries related to gardening activities throughout the year.
Last November we gave a talk to our local Sunnyvale Garden Club. I reminded the members that gardening counts as exercise (in fact it can be quite strenuous exercise at times) and should be treated as such. To avoid injuries it is important to treat gardening as you would any other sport, by staying fit, warming up, using the right equipment, and being smart about how you bend, lift and move. In addition to teaching some functional movement based exercises, I shared my “Top Ten Gardening Tips for a Healthy Back”.
So before you head back out into the garden, check out these tips, have fun, and stay healthy!
Top Ten Gardening Tips for a Healthy Back
- Think like an athlete. Prepare your mind and body for your “sport.” Start with a light warm-up such as leg swings or step-ups.
- Maintain the natural curves of the spine (neutral spine posture) as you work. Bend from your hips and knees…not from your back.
- Take a load off your back. Keep your work close to your body, especially when lifting.
- Avoid twisting and reaching. Move your feet (if standing) or knees (if kneeling) instead.
- Dress for your “sport.” Wear a hat and apply sunscreen if you’re in the sun. Wear gloves and supportive shoes. Wear clothing that allows you to move freely but won’t get in your way.
- Take a break. Don’t stay in any one position for too long. Stand up and stretch or sit down and rest a bit. Remember, “The best position is the next position.”
- Break up large projects into manageable tasks. Plan ahead and pace your activity, spreading it out over a few days or a week.
- Drink plenty of water. Keep a water bottle with you while gardening.
- Use the right tools for the job. Don’t take short cuts.
- Ask for help when you need it.