Gardening isn’t exactly an extreme sport, but while you might not need a helmet to participate, you can take steps to avoid injury from maintaining improper posture.
Bending over seeding, weeding and watering, the hours can quickly slip by. Then there’s activities like digging, carrying buckets, pushing wheelbarrows and lifting. Done the wrong way, these activities can place strain and stress on our backs, particularly when our bodies are held in unsound positions over a sustained period of time to perform them.
More than 3.7 million Australians have back pain or similar problems according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.1 Prevalence of back pain increases if you are over 55 years old.
DIY activities around the home can result in a high rate of injury. In Australia it’s been shown that of DIY injuries presented at an Emergency department, 75% of incidents occur in a residential setting, particularly the garden.2
Any infrequent activity – whether you’re an avid gardener or a weekend warrior on the sports field – should be prefaced by a few minutes preparing yourself both physically and mentally.
Common Posture Problems
Dowager’s Hump (increased kyphosis)
In older people, it has been found that the greater the postural issue of Dowager’s Hump (or kyphosis) the greater the odds of experiencing difficulties in activities such as bending, walking or climbing.2
Hunched over a garden weeding or planting can result in the condition commonly referred to as Round Shoulders, which is distinguished by the hunched over appearance it produces.
Uneven or rotated hips
Twisting to shift dirt from a wheelbarrow to a garden, or to pull out and pile up weeds can lead to issues with uneven or rotated hips.
In severe cases, long term bad posture can lead to Scoliosis, a condition that results in the spine twisting from left to right, instead of running in a straight line from top to bottom. Depending on the severity, scoliosis of the spine can have a detrimental impact on vital organs, such as your heart, liver and kidneys.
The good news is that postural issues can be corrected, and even in some instances reversed.3,4
In the first instance, give your posture a sporting chance. By preparing before you enter the garden and having a few simple rules in mind, you can minimise your chance of experiencing some of these common gardening afflictions. And aside from using the correct posture and tools, take frequent breaks and walk around and stretch, as staying in the same position for too long can contribute to a sore back later that night or the next morning.5
The Straighten Up Australia app is another great tool to add to your gardening materials. The app contains a short stretching and posture program to help improve your spinal health that can be done during your breaks or before and after your time in the garden. Along with other great features, the app lets you set reminders about staying hydrated and completing the exercises.
Your local ACA chiropractor can also provide advice and assistance on maintaining a healthy spine and improving spinal function, while recommending appropriate care options and exercises. Find out more about chiropractic here or to find your local ACA chiropractor, visit findachiro.org.au
- Australia’s Health 2018 (AIHW). aihw.gov.au., 2018. Web.
- Kado, D.M., Huang, M-H., Barrett-Connor, E., Greendale, G.A. (2005) Hyperkyphotic Posture and Poor Physical Functional Ability in Older Community-Dwelling Men and Women: The Rancho Bernardo Study. Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. 60(5), 633-637
- Payne, M.R. (2010). Why Posture Matters (part III). The American Chiropractor (March 2010).
- Kirk, R., Franz, R., Hoirlis, K., Stiles, A. (2010). Effects of a Short Trial of Posture Exercises on Forward Head and Forward Shoulder Posture in Healthy Adults. Life University. The Journal of Chiropractic Education, Vol 24, 1, 2010.
- Bean, P. (2009). Ecollo website. Retrieved march 14th 2010 from http://www.ecollo.com/post/2009/03/Common-gardening-injuries-and-how-to-avoid-them.aspx