Gardening can be a great stress reliever for many folks, but it can also cause an aching back to crop up. Consider this:
- A Gallup poll of 2,000 people found that 42 percent of them had suffered from back pain. Of that segment, 47 percent reported that the problem was related to working in a garden. (Poll conducted in 2000.)
- A Canadian research firm, Pollara, surveyed 500 chiropractors in Ontario in 2003 asking them what the most common source of back pain was for their patients. They reported that 88 percent of cases stem from yard work and gardening. (The survey went on to list golf at 31 percent and outdoor sports with 30 percent as two other likely causes of back pain.)
Dr. David Rothbart and the team of experts at Spine Team Texas offer the following tips to ward off back problems associated with gardening:
- Before planting, digging and/or weeding, do some basic stretches to loosen your muscles.
- Kneel on the ground to plant—don't bend.
- When picking up plants, tools, etc., lift with your legs and not your back.
- Keep good posture and tighten your stomach muscles to support your back.
- When shoveling, raking or hoeing use tools that are tall enough so that you aren’t bending down to use them. New ergonomic rakes make the job even easier.
- Use your arm and leg muscles when pushing/pulling objects, not your back.
- Take breaks and change tasks so that you're not in the same position for an extended period of time.
- Choose hand tools that are lightweight and avoid overreaching when using them.
- When using a greenhouse bench or a potting bench, make sure it's the right height and that you're not stooping over to plant.
- Use a wheelbarrow for those bags of mulch and compost.
- For lifting heavier items, find someone to help you.
- Don't bag your grass clippings (unless you have a large amount) as this requires a lot of forward bending with a heavy item.
- Set a timer to make sure that you are working for only an hour or two in the yard at a time so that you don't over do it.
- If your back does feel sore, use ice on it for 15 to 20 minutes.