How To Save Your Back While Gardening

by Laurie

It’s that time of year when we get excited about spring, then look outside and see all the work to be done.  Gardening is a way better workout than the gym, but like the gym, I want to avoid any setbacks from injury or strain brought on by the physical aspects of gardening. Below are some of the recommendations from professional physio types about correct alignment and techniques that I remind myself of each and every time I reach for a shovel or pick up a heavy bucket.

Correct Bending

Correct Bending

1.    Bending
Hinge at hip crease, not at waist. Get lower – bend knees slightly.  Stick bum out behind you. Spine long, not rounded. Wider stance, feet at least hip width apart.

2.    Lifting
Again – hinge at hip crease, not waist. Bum out behind with knees slightly bent.
Get close to object. Stiffen trunk to protect spine and provide more strength.  Lift   with hips, not knees or back. When carrying a heavy load keep torso stiff, rib cage over pelvis and no leaning back. Never twist when lifting.

3.    Digging
Stand with arms straight out on shovel handle, blade vertical when pushing down with foot. Lower stance with slightly bent legs, bum out behind as hands slide down shaft to lift shovel load. Use legs and arms to dig, with trunk not back.
Again – feet/hips/shoulders must always face same direction. Do not dig and then twist around to empty shovel.

4.    Weeding
 Get low – best to sit on bucket or kneel with pad. When sitting, bend at hip joint with flat back, legs wide apart, resting an arm on the leg above knee gives extra support.
Get close to weeds, never over reach.  No twisting – face area you are working in.
Remember pulling weeds is so much easier when the ground is a bit moist.

I am constantly correcting my alignment and technique as I work through various tasks in the garden. I now know to keep a water bottle handy and take breaks, pace myself, use long handled tools and switch jobs frequently.  I want to feel nicely fatigued but not pain after a good workout in the garden.

(Sources: K. Peper, consulting Restorative Exercise Specialist)

See these YouTube clips for more info: Gardening: avoiding back pain whilst weeding
Gardening without Back Pain – Part2: Digging and Shoveling