Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the United Kingdom. It is a relaxing activity that can offer many benefits to participants, including improved cardiovascular fitness, healthier bones, and stronger muscles.
Gardening can also strengthen social connections, provide plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to eat, and lift your mood. It really is a fantastic pastime that should be embraced by people of all ages.
However, gardening can be tough on the body. Gardeners are often forced to bend over, lift heavy objects, and stand in awkward positions as they tend to their plants. In fact, it is not infrequent that our chiropractors at Homewood Chiropractic Clinic in Fareham to treat patients who are dealing with back complaints caused by their gardening activities.
If you are planning to spend time gardening this spring then our Fareham chiropractor has put together some advice to help you avoid back injuries and enjoy a ‘Back Safe Gardening’.
Back Safe Gardening Advice From Our Fareham Chiropractor
Staying Safe In The Garden
#1 – Stretch Before You Start
Stretching isn’t just for athletes! It should be performed before any form of exercise, including gardening.
Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, lubricates the joints, and prepares your body for exertion. It greatly reduces the risk of injury as you garden and can make gardening a more enjoyable experience.
If you would like to learn some more stretches, ask for advice the next time you visit our Fareham chiropractor.
#2 – Wear comfortable clothing
Avoid wearing anything constrictive as it may limit your freedom of movement and affect your posture. If it’s chilly then wear something appropriate for the weather so your back muscles don’t become stiff from the cold.
#3 – Start with lighter jobs
Don’t start your garden session by lugging large amounts of soil around in a wheelbarrow. Instead, start with something easy, like pruning a hedge or harvesting some vegetables. This will help you warm up, which reduces the risk of a back injury.
#4 – Stand close when pruning
Protect your lower back by standing close to the object you are pruning. This will help you maintain good posture and avoid unnecessary muscle strains as you work. Consider purchasing long handled secateurs to reach those tricky branches.
#5 – Kneel or squat instead of bending over
When performing tasks like weeding or planting, it is less stressful on the back if you kneel or squat instead of bending over. Place a cushion beneath your knees to make it easier on the joints.
#6 – Use a ladder safely
It is not uncommon for our chiropractors to treat patients who have been injured while using a ladder. To use a ladder safely, always point your face, chest, and waist in the same direction when standing on it. This will help you avoid excessive twisting. Instead of stretching to reach far away branches, move the ladder frequently so it is in a better position. Watch this video to learn how to carry and position ladders safely.
#7 – Carrying heavy items safely
Gardening involves a surprising amount of heavy lifting. You may find yourself constantly moving bags of fertiliser, potted plants, tiles, stones, and other heavy objects. When lifting these objects, keep the following tips in mind:
- Stand close to the object you are going to pick up
- Bend your knees and keep your back straight as you lower yourself to pick it up
- Once you have grabbed the object, straighten your knees to lift yourself up, while keeping a straight back
- Carry the load close to your chest
- Attempt to maintain the natural curve of your spine throughout the entire process and let the muscles in your legs do the work
You should also look for opportunities to reduce the amount of heavy lifting you do in the garden:
- Use gardening trolleys and wheelbarrows as much as possible
- Carry light items to the heavy items (eg. carry your empty pots to the heavy bag of potting mix instead of vice versa)
- Break up heavy loads into multiple parts, like big bags of potting soil
- Have heavy items delivered close to where you will be using them
- Ask for help!
This excellent video from the British Chiropractic Association goes into more detail on how you should lift and carry objects.
#8 – Be Mindful Of Your Posture
As you move about the garden, be mindful of how you are positioning your body. Remember that you should avoid awkward positions that place strain on your joints or muscles. The British Chiropractor Association has published an excellent video which shares some tips for maintaining good posture while in the garden.
If you are concerned about the quality of your posture, book an appointment with at our chiropractic clinic in Fareham. Our chiropractors will be able to share useful exercises and stretches to improve your posture.
#9 – Dig Safely
Minimise your risk of injuring your back by using correct digging technique:
- Make sure your hips, shoulders and the shovel face are facing the same direction
- If you are digging into the ground, use your foot to drive the shovel
- Bend at the hips and not the back when picking up a load. Keep your chest out and bend your knees. Lift using your leg muscles
- Keep the load on your shovel light
- When holding a full shovel, keep one hand on the handle and the other close to the blade. This makes it easier to carry the weight of the shovel’s load
- Avoid twisting your back
- Walk over to where the shovel load is going instead of throwing it or reaching out in front of your body
#10 – Take Regular Breaks
Time really flies when you are in the garden. It often seems like there is an endless list of things to do, from weeding and planting through to playing with the compost pile! However, it is crucial to take regular breaks when gardening. This gives your back a chance to rest before getting stuck into it again. It’s also a good time to do some simple stretches.
#11 – Use tools to make gardening easier
We’ve already mentioned the use of wheelbarrows and garden trolleys to make gardening easier. But there are many other tools you can use including:
- Garden stools
- Ergonomic garden shovels
- Cushioned kneelers for weeding
- Raised garden beds (which reduce the amount of leaning over)
If you have any further questions, contact our team at Homewood Chiropractic Clinic on 01329 280 283.