Sunday, October 7, 2012

Caring for your back in the garden

At 42+ one can expect to feel a little creaky I suppose, but in 2010 I had to admit that I could feel my body was taking serious strain. For the previous 3 years I enjoyed mountain biking and my body handled what I threw at it. I worked hard in the garden lifting heavy bags, bending for hours and gardening for up to 8 hours on a weekend on top of a strenous MTB ride.

In December 2010 my back siezed...intense pain which prevented me even lifting my left leg to go up a small step. Months of physio and rehabilitative excercise followed. More months of therapeutic massage and stretching.

 These days it only flares up when I am not careful, if I sit too long, try to left heavy things in the garden and do not watch my standing posture.

To save you avid gardeners some money and lots of pain here are some back saving tips for you.

Basic practise:

1. Understand your body and how it works. Take a look at this article and the muscles of your back. Unless you learn to engage your "core" (#2) you will be putting all those little muscles under strain and you can eventually do damage to your spine.

2. Engage your core muscles which is to pull up your pelvic floor and contract your stomach for all bending lifting to help support your back. The stomach and back work together so practise this even when you are sitting or driving which will cause muscle memory.

Gardening tips:

1. Bend your knees rather than your back.

2. Don't lift heavy things alone or at all. Ask your hubby..or son!

3. Use a wheelbarrow.

4. Kneel for weeding or planting, don't bend at the waist.

5. Make or buy a kneeling pad. You can make a thick pad with old bath towels and then cover with tough canvas. You can also buy foam ones at the garden shop.

6. Know your limits. Plan a little for each day and don't exceed what you know you can handle.

7. Set up a little table and chairs to sit at to sow seed.

8. Find some stretches for your back, glutes and legs for after gardening. I have a set of them I do a couple of times a day whether I garden or not.

9. Get all hands in the home involved - many hands make light work AND it's always better to do a job with someone than alone.

1 comment:

Lois Evensen said...

Take care of yourself. I can see you are doing that and being careful. I have great empathy for those with back pain. I studied ballet for ten years and got my share there, then have had problems on and off over the years. I, too, have spent time digging in the garden as well as moving kids and furniture from here to there.

I hope you feel 100% soon.