Do you work hard to make your yard the envy of your neighbors or are you a reluctant gardener just trying to maintain minimum standards of the neighborhood? No matter which type of homeowner you are one thing holds true – gardening and yard work can be a real pain!
One of the most common complaints following a few hours of yard work is lower back pain. Weeding, mowing, digging, raking, planting and mulching can wreck havoc on your back muscles, and if you’re not careful it’s easy to strain or pull the muscles in your back.
Dr. Brian Morrison, President & Clinical Director of Morrison Chiropractic and Adjunct Faculty Member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is very familiar with the back pains created by summer gardening. Every summer his practice sees an uptick in patients complaining of back pain from yard work.
“The biggest mistake people make when working in the yard is not warming up their bodies prior to starting,” says Dr. Morrison. “It’s important to warm up your muscles to prepare for the repetitive movements and heavy lifting required for gardening tasks. And, contrary to popular belief, old fashioned stretching exercises may not be effective or helpful,” he added.
Dr. Morrison recommends following these 10 tips for gardening to help you keep your back in good shape all summer long.
- Warm Up – Before beginning; take a few minutes to warm up your muscles by doing some dynamic warm up exercises. These include going for a brisk 5 – 10 minute walk around the yard, jumping jacks, walking lunges and arm circles.
- Hydrate – Muscles need water to function optimally. When you maintain your body’s water levels during use, you allow your muscles to coordinate with each other properly and support your physical activity. Adequate water levels in your body can help prevent the onset of muscle cramps or spasms and help prevent dehydration.
- Mix It Up – Vary your gardening tasks each time. Do a little pruning work, raking, bending work, digging, etc. Don’t continuously perform any particular activity for a long period.
- Mowing – Leaning forward as you push the lawn mower can strain your back. Be sure to maintain proper posture and push with your arms and legs instead of your back.
- Weeding – Bending over at the waist for prolonged periods is a sure way to cause your back muscles to start complaining. Kneel on a rubber gardening mat, sit on a wheeled gardening stool, or sit directly on the ground instead. Make sure you have all your tools close at hand.
- Lifting – When lifting bags of dirt, mulch or potted plants, keep your back straight and bend with your knees and hips (not your back) when reaching down. The power for your lift comes from your buttocks and legs. If you are picking up piles of grass, leaves or other yard waste, make the piles small to decrease the weight.
- Raking – Most people use the rake with their dominant hand only. This causes one side of your body to be overused. Try switching sides every few minutes, even though it will feel awkward. Your back, neck and arms will thank you.
- Wear Supportive Shoes – Yard work can put a lot of strain on your feet and legs. Good foot and arch support can stop some of that strain from reaching your back. Ditch the sandals and flip-flops and opt for a supportive pair of shoes instead.
- Take Breaks – Taking your time will make it less likely for injuries to occur. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion can cause you to get sloppy with good posture and lifting techniques, setting you up for injury.
- Outsource – Consider hiring a local student to do the heavy work that strains your back. Lots of young people can’t find summer jobs and one may be more than willing to spend a few hours a week working for you. As an added bonus, you might just turn them into a gardener for life!
Source: www.prweb.com; July 17, 2012.