22 November 2019

Spine Smart Gardening

With summer almost in full swing, many of us will drop the winter woollies, pick up a hat, gloves and shovel and head to our gardens, growing the vibrant vegetation that comes with the season. While there are many benefits to gardening, it’s important to remember your physical health when getting lost in the hours of it, especially your spinal health.

The simple acts in gardening like weeding, watering and mowing the lawns all involve hours of bending and hunching, which can put strain on your lower back and neck. It’s easy then to understand how back pain can arise from our pursuits in the garden if we don’t undertake these activities in the right way, especially if we haven’t been gardening much in recent months.

Although putting down the tools and letting the weeds grow out isn’t the best option, with gardening having such a positive impact on our overall wellbeing, when heading into the green it’s important to be mindful of spinal health and properly prepare our bodies.

Here are a few simple tips that may help reduce the strain and aches while in the garden:

  1. Warm up
    Gardening may not be an extreme sport, however any movement of the body should involve some form of warming up. Start with lighter tasks to wake up the muscles, especially your back. It’s important to listen to your body as well and try not to over-work yourself.
  2. Take frequent breaks
    Although tempting, try to avoid doing all the work at once. It’s easy to get lost in the hours of gardening, so set regular breaks for yourself by avoiding working during the hottest parts of the day and only during allowed watering times, giving your body plenty of time to rest.
  3. Lift carefully
    The garden is full of objects that may not appear heavy but in fact can cause strain on your lower back if not handled correctly, like watering cans and pots. When lifting keep the object as close to your body as you can, when space permits bend at the knees instead of the waist to lessen the strain on your back, use both hands and slowly stand up.
  4. Use the best tools
    The tools you use can help ease the burden on your body from gardening. Vertical garden walls and raised garden beds can lift your body off the ground and help keep your back straight. If you have traditional garden space, then a simple garden stool or bench can go a long way, reducing the need for squatting and hunching, while bringing you closer to the ground.
  5. Straighten up
    Easier said than done but the more you practice good posture, the easier it gets. Every time you start to feel your body slouching, remind yourself to get your back straight again by pushing your shoulders back and keeping them relaxed.

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