How to Prevent Back Pain When Gardening

In this article I’m going to share with you tips on how to prevent back pain when gardening.

Summer is finally here and with it comes better weather

Perfect time to enjoy getting out in the garden.

Gardening is a great form of exercise that improves our health and wellbeing both physically and mentally, due to the calming effects of nature.

However, it can also be quite strenuous and demanding on the body too.

Activities like digging, weeding, planting, mowing the lawn, cutting the hedges can all cause aches and pains, especially lower back pain.

If left untreated this back pain can become so severe that it stops you gardening and doing what you love.

So I thought I’d put together a few tips to help you look after your back and reduce the risk of getting back pain whilst gardening.

But before I go any further, I thought I’d just go into a bit of detail about your lower back so you have a better understanding on the stress and load you put on your back when gardening

Your lumbar spine/lower back consists of 5 vertebra. Between each vertebrae we have discs that help with shock absorption.

Each vertebra has facet joints that attach to our back muscles. Nerves run through these joints from the spine to control the lower body.

Injuries such as Slipped/Prolapsed discs, Facet Joint Irritation or Nerve Root Impingement can happen due to muscle weakness, imbalances or excessive loads being put on the spine or facet joints.

When you do activities like gardening you put stress on the lower back muscles, discs and facet joints, which increases your risk of back pain, inflammation and injury.

So the first thing to consider is strengthening your core.

5 Ways How To Prevent Back Pain When Gardening

1. Strengthening Your Core Will Help To Protect Your Back

Our core muscles consist of underlying muscles that stabilize our trunk – these include abdominal muscles such as obliques, rectus abdominus, the diaphragm, pelvic floor, lower back muscles.  Also muscles that stabilise the pelvis, hips and shoulders.

A strong core will prepare your body for the more rigorous demands of gardening whilst reducing your risks of back pain and injury.

Pilates and Yoga are great ways to strengthen your core. 

Our 21 day Pilates Programme is a great introduction to Pilates as you will start to build a stronger core in only 3 weeks.

Stronger Core = Less Back Pain

Click on the link below for more information about our programme

2. Prepare Your Body With A Gentle Warm Up

It’s quite easy to think of gardening as just a bit of movement, but it can be quite a challenging workout.

Lots of bending, squatting, twisting, digging is involved – all which require lots of range of movement, using numerous muscles and joints.

You should prepare the body the same as if you are going to do an exercise session or some type of sport.

Perform some simple mobility exercises to warm up the core muscles, arms, legs and shoulders.

  • Spine Mobility Exercises such as Side bends, Spine Twists, Rolldowns
  • Shoulder exercises such as Shoulder Rolls and Arm Circles
  • Squats – great for mobilising the knee and hip joints and strengthening the legs and glutes (bottom) muscles which will help to take off some of the load from your back whilst gardening.

Not sure how to do these correctly, check out this video below where I share a full Pilates warm up routine in our Facebook Group

3. Bend And Lift Correctly

Like I’m always telling our Pilates members, be mindful of how you pick things up.

Whether it’s something heavy such as a bag of compost or a light small plant. Pick it up the exact same way.

Safe Lifting Technique

– Engage your core muscles before you lift

– Stand feet hip width apart creating a strong stable base

– Squat by bending from your hips and knees, NOT your waist

– Use both hands to grip the load firmly

Keeping your back straight and chest lifted

– Hold the load close to your body.

The further the load is from your body, the heavier it becomes

– DO NOT lift and twist or side bend

– Slowly straighten your legs as you stand engaging your Glutes and Legs

4. Use Special Garden Tools That Take Pressure Off Your Back

– Use a wheelbarrow where you can, to carry loads more safely.

– Use kneeling pads so you don’t have to squat and can adjust yourself to a better, more comfortable position, that puts less stress on your back.

You can also get knee pads with a frame around to assist you getting up and down too

-Long-handled tools can make weeding, edging the lawn and pruning much easier on your back, by avoiding the need to stretch or bend over repeatedly.

5. Take Regular Breaks & Stretch

It’s easy to lose track of time and get carried away when performing a task in the garden such as weeding or pruning.

But staying in the same position for a long time (especially when its putting pressure on the back), can cause stiffness and pain.

So ensure you take regular breaks to get up and move, do a few stretches, have a little walk to stop yourself seizing up.

Preferably take a break every 20-30mins

Set yourself a reminder on your phone or smart watch.

Also try and avoid doing the same kind of repetitive task, such as weeding, for a long period.  Regularly switch to another activity and rotate these tasks to give your body a break.

Lastly at the end of the day once you’ve tidied up and put everything away invest in a good 10 minute stretch to ease tight, achy muscles.

Stretching the legs, glutes, back, shoulders and also your neck.

This will help muscles to recover and repair quicker.

Not sure about how to stretch follow the Stretching Videos in our Facebook Group by clicking on the link below

Happy Gardening

I hope you’ve found these tips on how to prevent back pain when gardening useful and you put them into practice.