Spring is here, at least according to the calendar. As the days get longer, more and more people are getting their garden ready for the season. But the bending and lifting that come along with beautifying your yard or getting your veggies ready for harvest can cause back pain when not done right. In fact, back injuries are the second most common reason for doctor visits and more than half of adults will experience back pain at some point in their life. “Sometimes the simplest of movements, for example picking up a flower pot from the floor, can have painful results,” says Joseph Herzig, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT, a physical therapist from Jefferson Frankford Hospital. “It really depends on the bending or lifting techniques used during these movements.” Here are Joe’s tips on preventing back injuries while getting your garden ready for the season.
- Gardening can be good for the mind! Horticultural therapy is devoted to helping people heal physically and emotionally through gardening.
- To reduce back pain while gardening, get a second person to help carry heavy items, or unload them into a garden cart or wheelbarrow. Alternatively, roll the item to its destination or onto a piece of tarp and drag it.
- Refrain from gardening activity that involves bending and heavy lifting if you already experience back pain, as this may worsen the symptoms. Periodically stand and bend backward following prolonged or repetitive forward bending.
- Stand upright when using long-handled tools like hoes and rakes, to avoid stress on the back.
- Drop the load immediately if you find it’s too heavy.
- Use a garden stool or bench if you are unable to squat or kneel.
- Schedule jobs when it’s easier to do them. Moist earth is easier to dig in than dry, compact earth or soggy, saturated dirt. Work in the shade if possible to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
If you do end up with a backache even after following these tips, call 215-955-1200 to see a physical therapist, or 1-800-JEFF-NOW to schedule an appointment with a physician.