As we approach the prime growing season, many of us will be spending more time outside sprucing our garden. Being one with nature and doing gardening activities can be therapeutic, and it’s certainly satisfying to watch something you planted grow.
Too often, however, too much gardening activity can mean a trip to your doctor of chiropractic for treatment of back pain. Back pain is a very common result of bending, reaching, pulling, etc., and that takes the joy out of what should be a fun and rewarding part of our life.
That doesn’t mean you need to cross gardening off your list. You can still exercise your green thumb by following these 11 doctor of chiropractic-approved strategies for minimizing injuries to your neck, back, and extremities.
1. Warm up before you start
Gardening can be a real workout, so warming up your muscles first is a good idea. Try a brisk five-minute walk and some stretching exercises. One relatively gentle stretch is the back-flexion exercise. Lie down on your back, and then pull both knees to your chest while bringing your head forward.
2. Lift with support
Lifting heavy pots, bushes, and full watering cans without proper back support can injure your back’s discs, muscles, and ligaments.
To lift in an ergonomically supported manner, begin by squatting and not bending at your waist. Use both hands to hold the object, keeping it close to your body. Slowly straighten your legs as you stand.
To minimize lifting, use a wagon, dolly, or other lifting aids to carry heavy items from place to place. Fill large watering cans just halfway. Also, consider alternative watering options, such as soaker hoses or automated irrigation systems.
3. Take frequent breaks
It’s easy to lose track of time when you love being out in the yard or garden. Set a kitchen timer or one on your phone to remind you to get up and stretch or walk. You could also bring a water bottle as a reminder to take frequent breaks and hydrate yourself.
Your doctor of chiropractic will also remind you to avoid doing the same kind of task, such as pruning, for an extended period. Switch to another activity and rotate these tasks periodically. If you’ve been in one position for a while, do some stretches during these breaks.
4. Get support from kneelers and chairs
Getting down on the ground – and then standing back upright – can be painful or even impossible, depending on your pain level and flexibility.
Heavy-duty kneelers, especially those with raised, padded handles, can help you get up and down, allowing you to use your arm strength to aid in the process. Kneelers usually include a well-cushioned base to reduce stress and impact on your knees and back. Many kneelers also convert to a low chair.
5. Add cushioning with knee pads
Wearable or moveable kneepads are a good option if you feel more comfortable kneeling at ground level. Multiple types of foam are often used to maximize cushioning.
Be sure to purchase strong, good-quality kneepads that fit correctly and have sturdy straps. Memory foam pads are another option to consider.
6. Use garden scooters to avoid twisting
Stretching and twisting can put added stress on the joints and discs in your spine. One way to minimize twisting is to use a wheeled scooter. Scooters range in size from small scooters made to fit in tight garden spaces to larger scooters with baskets.
7. Try out specialized tools
Long-handled tools can eliminate much of the bending required in planting and weeding. For example, long-handled trowels and cultivators can be helpful if bending forward causes or worsens your back pain.
The traditional wheelbarrow, or even better, a four-wheeled garden cart, makes it easier to carry heavy objects and reduces the load your low back has to manage.
8. Garden while standing
Wall gardening, also called vertical gardening, is a trend of planting up, not across the ground. If bending is painful for you, working more at your eye level may be something to consider.
9. Bringing the plants to you
Raised-bed gardening using beds 2 to 3 feet tall offers plenty of planting options. Some sturdier raised beds include an edge where the gardener can sit while planting or harvesting vegetables, fruits, or herbs. Raised beds are often wheelchair accessible.
10. Keep plants contained
Growing plants in containers can make gardening much easier. In addition to flowers, larger containers can be well suited to growing lettuce and other vegetables.
Be sure to use extra-deep containers for tomatoes. Wheeled structures called plant caddies can be used under heavier pots to avoid lifting, pushing, and pulling.
11. Think outside the garden plot
You may discover that you need to scale back your garden. Think about what’s most important and what you can let go – or assign to others.
Consider having someone else handle the weeding. It’s a repetitive motion that causes more stress on your back than you might expect. If you can’t avoid weeding completely, mulch generously to discourage weeds. The mulch will also keep in moisture, so you won’t need to spend as much time watering.
Chiropractic care is effective in treating back pain or other injuries because it’s safe, gentle, and non-invasive. In fact, a doctor of chiropractic is a specialist in disorders within the musculoskeletal system.
He or she knows that a misalignment in the spine puts pressure on the nervous system. That misalignment often interrupts communication between the brain and the rest of the body. If indicated by a physical assessment, a chiropractic adjustment may be used to correct the misalignment. This action allows the nerves to function optimally, increases joint mobility, and reduces pain.
Chiropractic has been known to help a whole list of conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Your chiropractor may also recommend stretches and exercises to strengthen your core and stabilize your spine to prevent future injuries.
Cleveland University-Kansas City Health Center offers a natural course of healthcare free of prescription pills and heals the body from within.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC), founded in 1922, is a private, nonprofit, chiropractic and health science-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. The CUKC on-campus Chiropractic Health Center is open to the public and treats patients from Kansas City’s 15-county metro area. Our goal is to provide care and solutions for a better, more productive life for our patients.