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Gardening and Back Problems

Gardening is a favourite activity enjoyed by many and as the growing season progresses so does back trouble. Working outdoors in the garden or those who are landscapers often experience back issues from time-to-time and this is (usually) treated quite easily. After a long winter we all want to get outside and rush into our gardens yet after sitting idle for many months, racing out there may get many into trouble. Sometimes right away or sometimes weeks later, back troubles start to emerge that inhibit one’s ability to enjoy their garden. The main muscles used during gardening are in the back, shoulders, legs, thighs, and wrists. Lower back pain is the most common pain that gardeners tend to suffer. The lower back muscles support the whole body so it is very common to suffer from lower back pain not only after gardening, but any physical activity.

Prevention is Key

To help prevent back injury doing some simple warm up exercises is important. After all, gardening is exercise and being limbered up to spend time working outdoors can help. Not only will you feel better after gardening, chances are you’ll feel better while out in the garden.Having a brisk walk around the block is a simple exercise you can do to help limber up. A few toe touching movements (be sure knees are bent), holding your arms straight out from your shoulders and making circles, and a few twisting movements at the waist (legs secure, knees bent) all go a long way to loosening up your muscles and helping you get through your garden work with ease.

Repetitive Movements

Keep in mind that repetitive movements and improperly lifting heavy objects are the main causes of injuries. Gardening is bending over, twisting, lifting and pulling. Depending on how much work there is to do, switch up your tasks every 10-15 minutes.

Other Tips

The riskiest thing to a gardener is bending over and lifting heavy objects. Always be sure your knees are bent and when you lift something that your legs are doing the brunt of the works and your back is kept straight at all times. Never twist when picking something up.If you have a lot of raking to do (as most of us do especially in the spring and autumn months) rake with one foot in front of the other then switch ‘lead’ legs once in awhile.Take frequent rest breaks. Stop as often as you need to and evaluate how you feel. Always drink lots of water, and breathe deep while having your breaks.Above all, know your limitations and get help when needed. They say in health care that the caregiver needs to take care of themselves in order to provide the best care. This rule applies to gardening as well. When the gardener takes care of himself, the garden will flourish. Last but not least, if you are down on the ground removing weeds or planting be sure to use knee pads. Knee pads go a long way to prevent knee injuries.

The Sun

Although the sun doesn’t fit into the category of preventing back injury while gardening it needs to be mentioned because it is important to having healthy bones. We all need sunshine on our skin to help our body produce vitamin D which is critical in our overall health. To read more about this please refer to a previous article by clicking here. If you always use sunscreen then you are opening the door to possible health problems including having a poor immune system in the winter. Having 15 or 20 minutes of mid day sun will help your body produce all the vitamin D you need for awhile. However, as summer draws to a close it becomes very important to start taking supplements or making sure you are getting enough vitamin D. The best method of protection when you aren’t “getting” your daily dose of sunshine is simply by wearing a wide brimmed hat and long sleeves. However, if you must use sunscreen please research which ones are safe. Many have been proven to cause cancer because of the chemical content. You can refer to the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen report to find out what brands are safe.

When Gardening Injury Occurs

An injury can be something as minor as a tiny ache to piecing pain and anything in between. If it is a minor ache and you can still maintain good posture and this ache does not stop you from doing other activities then be sure to take it easy. Sometimes going for a walk can help or doing very light work, but none-the-less do not go overboard.
If your injury causes you to want to reach for pain killers then please seek chiropractic help. Taking a pill will temporarily alleviate pain but it won’t solve the underlying issue which is the injury. It is critical to ensure that the exact problem is taken care of properly to help prevent re-injury.

Established in 2007 by Dr. Behfar Sanjari, Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has been committed to providing quality health care services to the Greater Toronto Area for over half a decade. Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has qualified professionals who can help you come up with a personalized plan to ensure the stretches and exercises will benefit the health of your head, spine and extremities. We have clinics located in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, visit Chiro-Med online or call 905-918-0419 or 905-235-2620 for more information.