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May Flowers Bring June Back Pain: Tips from a Physiotherapist on How To Avoid Gardening Related Back Pain

Spring has sprung and with it comes the annual yard work marathons. For Physiotherapists, this is back pain season. Gardening is very physical work, and after a long, indoor winter, many people are ill-equipped for a rapid increase in physical labour. If you are a “perennials only” serious gardener or working on a new outdoor project these tips will help you stave off back pain when you are exercising that green thumb.

1) Keep It Light

Don’t fill that wheelbarrow or bucket to the brim. Many lighter loads may take a little more time, but the heavier loads may over stress your muscles and joints before they’ve fully awakened from winter hibernation.

2) Vary Your Posture 

Try not to do any single activity for more than 20-25 minutes at a time. If you have been bending down getting your hands dirty for 20 minutes, move on to a standing task. Your spine will thank you for the variability, and you can always return to finish the bending project later.

3) Take Breaks and Breathe

There are no ribbons for the fastest gardener. Take frequent breaks to let your muscles recover. Lifting while tired leads to poor form and an inevitable call to the Physiotherapist.

Try Spinal Cord Breathing, a dynamic stretching movement during your break. Remember, it’s not a competition. Only go as far as you can comfortably. Your spine will become more limber as you repeat the movement.

Check out the video by clicking here: Spinal Cord Breathing

4) Keep Things Close

Whether you are lifting a bag of topsoil or raking up some debris from the long winter. Keep loads close to your body. Holding any weight with outstretched arms is more challenging for your spine and shoulders than holding it close to your body.  Think of it like holding a baby.  It’s easier to snuggle a baby in close then walk and carry them than it is to hold them and their spit-up covered sleeper away from your body.

5) Hydrate

Gardening is real exercise so treat it that way!! Make sure you have had a good breakfast, and you have water on hand to drink while you work. 

 

6) Practice dynamic stretches like Hand-Heel Rocks 

There’s nothing more satisfying than finding that “Ahhhh” when it comes to stretching stiff and tired muscles. Here’s a solution that includes 2 classic yoga poses – child’s pose and upward dog pose – to provide a gentle stretch and mobility.

 

 

 How To: start on all fours, then lower your hips back to sit on your heels with your arms reached out in front of you. Hold for 1-2 seconds (or however long feels good), then return to all fours, rock your pelvis to lower your bellybutton toward the floor.  As always, only go as far as you can comfortably.

 

If these exercises feel great and you’re looking for more OR if they’re not quite getting the job done, contact us to schedule an appointment with Divya Tejani, Registered Physiotherapist.  She practices yoga daily and can incorporate gentle low back movements like this into your treatment plan to get you back into the garden.

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