Gardening and Avoiding Back ProblemsGardening and Avoiding Back Problems
Gardening is a hobby that is enjoyed by a great many people across the globe. In fact, studies have shown that working in a garden for just a few minutes a day, has proven to reduce stress significantly. Taking the time to smell the roses is beneficial for all! Sadly, however, many people are forced to give up gardening, as they grow older. Having trouble moving, getting up and down, garden carrying tools, etc., easily discourages those who suffer problems with mobility. Should our twilight years strip of us of one of your favorite pastimes? Definitely not! Keep on reading, to learn some methods of saving time and saving your back (and other body parts) in the garden.
Back-related problems are the number one reason that people give for avoiding garden work, which is perfectly understandable. Many of us suffer problems with our back as we grow older and gardening can prove quite painful if not done correctly. Appropriate tools and a few simple shortcuts can make a surprisingly big difference to gardeners, young and old alike. Taking the time to plan ahead can restore gardening to the fun and fascinating hobby that it once was.
Planning ahead is the trick to smart gardening. Take a moment to think of what you plan to do out in the beds and then collect your tools ahead of time – it gets painfully frustrating, getting out in the garden, and situating yourself, only to discover that you’ve left an important tool or package of seeds behind. If you’re using small hand-held tools, try putting the ones that you’ll need into a bucket so that they’re easier to carry. If working with larger tools, such as shovels and rakes, try storing them in a wheeled trash can, which enables you to simply roll your tools out to the garden with you.
Before you even begin gardening, try doing a few simple stretches. Remember that weeding and tending a garden is a form of exercise and that those short minutes spent stretching will help to avoid painful pulled muscles down the road. Furthermore, when you begin your gardening, remember to treat it as exercise and vary the different tasks that you do, so you aren’t performing the same repetitive motion, over and over. This will help to avoid sore or stiff muscles, the following day.
If you are working from a standing position, try and use tools with long handles, so you don’t have to hunch over. Additionally, you will want to ensure that you maintain good posture while you’re working. Don’t be afraid to stand with your feet spread slightly, providing more stability for your body, and keep your back straight. When shoveling, raking or using a hoe, keep your motions slow and smooth; avoid jerking or making any short, choppy movements.
We are always taught to lift with our legs and not our backs, but you should also remember that, when you bend, you should bend from the hips and not the waist. Be careful not to twist as you turn – this can lead to painful back injuries. If you need to do something that would require you to twist, take the extra time to reposition your feet, and stabilize yourself, rather than twisting and risking injury.
If you have pre-existing back problems, planting in raised beds or elevated containers can help prevent back strain by eliminating the need to get down on one’s knees. If this is not an option and you do have to kneel, be sure to use a kneeling pad or a specially-built kneeler. Also, plan ahead and ensure that you have a form of sturdy support to help you to get back up on your feet and, in the event of an emergency, ensure that you have a whistle or your cell phone with you, while you are working outside.
If you have overly strenuous tasks that need completing, ask family or friends for assistance. If this is not an option, try running an advertisement in the local paper, looking for a student to help you for a couple of hours on the weekend. Also calling the local Cooperative Extension office can yield some good job leads, with students who are more than willing to help out. The opportunity can be beneficial for both of you, offering them some hands-on experience, as well as giving you an able-bodied helper for a few hours.
The most important thing to remember, as you go out to work in your garden is to pace yourself. Don’t try to do too many things at once and, if you need a break, be sure to take one – our bodies ache and hurt as a way of telling us that something is wrong. Be sure to listen to what yours is saying!