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Gardening and Your Health: Protecting Your Back

Working in the garden is a wonderful way to take advantage of spring’s fresh air and sunshine. It has been said: “He who plants a garden plants happiness.”  But that happiness will quickly fade if back pain takes hold.  Before you roll up your sleeves and start digging, here’s some tips to help protect your back before, during and after gardening.

Before Gardening:

Muscle strengthening exercises as a part of your daily routine, including squats, plank exercises, and free weight training, will help protect your back for yardwork and tending the garden.

“A garden is a friend you can visit any time,” so there’s no need to get it all done in the course of one day.  Make a plan and consider spreading out large projects over several weekends.

Immediately prior to gardening, get your muscles warmed-up, just as if you were readying for a work-out.  One easy warm-up is grasping your hands above your head, then pulling upward, which will increase blood flow to the spine, torso, and arms.

During Gardening:

  • Use long-handled tools to help with leverage and to avoid bending unnecessarily while cultivating the soil.
  • To prevent stooping, try kneeling in the garden. Just be sure to cushion your knees with a garden pad or old towel.
  • Consider using a garden stool for lengthy work like weeding, and a wheel barrow for carrying multiple loads.
  • Be conscientious of your back by tightening your abdominal muscles while planting. It also helps to think of your torso as one solid unit, bending at the hips instead of hunching over.
  • Remember to breathe during exertion. Exhale when lifting and inhale while lowering a heavy load.
  • Take lots of breaks and drink plenty of water, which serves to hydrate all soft tissues including the discs of the spine.
  • When you feel yourself straining too hard, stop and ask for help. Many hands make light work.

After Gardening:

Instead of reaching for those over-the-counter pills, consider taking a natural supplement for both joint and muscle pain relief.  A good quality supplement will not only assist in healing, but unlike conventional medicines, it won’t damage the kidneys and liver.  

Besides obvious muscles strains and injuries, gardening requires repetitive motions that can bring on an array of mechanical issues for the body. A visit with the chiropractor can speed up healing through adjustments, as well as in-office therapies that can continue at home.

Massage therapy sessions help repair and relax tense muscles incurred from a day’s yard work.  It also reduces back pain, migraine headaches, neck aches, shoulder pain, and joint pain, increasing circulation and mobility, which supports the body’s natural recovery.

Gardening is a great way to connect with nature and relieve stress. If you take the time to protect your back, you’ll be pain-free with more time to enjoy the fruit of your labor.  

Contributed by: T.E. Bonstrom