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Danger! Gardening back pain


Heave hoe!

In the springtime, when people are venturing into their gardens for the first time since the autumn, they are faced with a multitude of jobs that lie ahead. This can be for some especially hazardous with tasks such as digging, mowing, weeding and pruning.  By making a few small changes in the way you would normally perform certain tasks, even long term back pain sufferers can still enjoy gardening.
For gardeners some of the hazards include:
• Sustained bent postures – (weeding)
• Overstretching – (pruning)
• Repetitive movement – (digging)
• Lifting heavy loads in awkward position – (wheelbarrow)

Pace and prevention

  • General prevention activities include core strengthening exercises, such as Pilates, to build strong abdominal and back extensor muscles to support your back. Maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle will also go a long way in preventing chronic back problems. As you head out to the garden, plan the tasks ahead and be sure that they are achievable within your physical limits and time frame!
  • Treat gardening as you would a sport; warming-up and stretching works for the runner, the same precautions will work for the weekend gardener in preventing injuries.
    Make sure you wear appropriate loose fitting clothing, gently stretch the muscles of your back for a few minutes prior to starting.
  • Avoid repetitive or sustained positions. Some jobs, such as digging an area of garden, are repetitive. Break the task down into smaller chunks so as not to over exert yourself.
  • If there are heavy objects to shift either break the load down to smaller manageable amounts, use a long handled wheelbarrow or get someone to help. Take regular short breaks, this will help stop you overdoing it.
  • If you are a person who suffers from chronic or intermittent back pain you are potentially at greater risk of injury. There are several ways you can help yourself:
    • Have the right tools for the job; many injuries are caused by using tools not appropriate to the specific task. Garden tools come in many shapes, sizes and weights. Go for the ones with either long or telescopic handles, this will reduce the risk of being in sustained compromised postures and repetitive bending.
    • Make the design of your garden work for you. The type of gardening you do and the design of your garden can have an impact on back pain. For example if you have very wide flower bed these should be narrowed to reduce the amount of bending and reaching.
    • Raising the height of flower beds can also be a great advantage by reducing the need for bending.
    • Use a coiled hose for watering to reduce the need for carrying heavy watering cans.
    • Pace yourself and appreciate your physical endurance and limitations.

And finally…

If despite your precautions you do sustain back pain which does not subside quickly it is important to get quick professional advice. Physiotherapists are specifically trained in the comprehensive assessment and diagnosis of back pain. When appropriate, physiotherapists provide a wide range of treatments to not only relieve pain but to promote movement and restore normal function. Treatment could include specific hands on approach with joint manipulation/ mobilisation / soft tissue massage and specific exercises for mobility and strengthening.

For further information please contact:
Physio2go Ltd.
York Lodge,
St. Peters St,
St. Albans,
AL 1 3HD
Telephone: 01727 850925