The start of summer means the start of gardening season in Portland. While gardening is a great way to get outside and stay active, it can also lead to unwanted back pain. Thankfully, here are five easy things you can do to stay safe and avoid back pain and injury while gardening.
1. Use Good Posture When Lifting
The most important thing you should remember when gardening is to use good lifting mechanics in order to prevent low back injuries. Avoid bending forward as this will put excess strain on the lower back. Focus on bending through the knees and using squat and lunge positions, and avoid twisting when carrying anything heavy. Hold objects close to your body when carrying them, and use slow and deliberate movements.
Garden tools can help you maintain good posture and avoid overuse of muscles and joints. Wheelbarrows allow you to lift heavy objects safely. Longer tools that allow you to stand can help avoid excessive bending, and hoses on reels can help you avoid having to carry heavy watering cans around. Focus on using your legs to do the work and not your back when raking and shoveling. This avoids excessive twisting, which can cause pain and injury.
3. Change Positions Often
Change positions frequently when planting and weeding. Use a variety of postures like squat positions, half-kneeling and sitting positions. Vary which leg is in front of you and which arm you are using. Avoid bending forward through the back as much as possible and focus on keeping the back straight and bending through your hips.
4. Take Breaks
One of the most important things you can do when gardening is take frequent breaks. Aim for breaks every 20-30 minutes. Taking breaks to stretch and stay hydrated helps prevent pain and injury. Make sure to reapply sunblock too!
If bending and lifting are too uncomfortable, even when you are using good form, there are other ways you can still enjoy gardening. Utilize raised garden boxes and pots, which allow you to tend flowers and vegetables without having to bend and lift from the ground.
Gardening is great for both physical and mental health. By making sure you use good posture and body mechanics, you can stay safe and healthy throughout the summer. If you do injure your back, get help. If you live in the Portland area, contact us or call 503-295-2585, or visit us at lifesworkpt.com. For tips on finding a good PT, read our recent blog post on How to Find a Good PT.