Spring is blooming, and we all have the urge to get back to our regularly scheduled outdoor activities as soon as possible. And what better way to spend time outdoors than to spruce up your home with flowers, trees, and shrubs? Over the last year, Americans have turned to gardening to get outside and relax during these unprecedented times, and now that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, we’re all eager to get outdoors and celebrate. Gardening is a great activity to take up for your mental and physical health, and can be done individually as a stress reliever, or with your family as a fun, outdoor activity. While being outside in the sun can work wonders for stress levels, it can cause extra strain on your back if done extensively and in uncomfortable positions. Here are a few tips to help you ease into gardening while avoiding injury to your neck and back.
5 Back Tips for Summer Gardening
- Plan Ahead
Before you head out to change your landscape, come up with a plan on what you will do each day and how you will do it. Keep track of what you can/can’t do in terms of your back pain and start small. Starting or revamping your garden should be fun and stress-free, so you don’t want to set yourself up with plants you can’t tend to! If you plant too many things that will become too cumbersome to take care of, you may be adding extra stress and time spent removing things later on. Planning ahead also includes prepping your space with any necessary tools or cushions.
- Use the Right Tools & Accessories
Tools that are lighter and have longer handles are best for those with back pain. There are also many tools out there that allow you to do what you need to do from an upright standing position, rather than having to kneel down or overextend your body. Another great investment is a cushion for your knees to use while you are kneeling on the ground. Whether you grab an old pillow from inside, or purchase something more suited for gardening, any way to alleviate the pressure on your body will benefit you.
- Be Careful Lifting Heavy Objects
Large items, like heavy bags of mulch or gravel, can really put a strain on your back if you don’t lift the right way. And if you suffer from back pain already, this can be especially painful. Make sure proper technique is used to bend, lift, and twist. Flexing your spine while bending or carrying something increases your risk of injury.
- Keep your back straight and bend from your knees when lifting something heavy.
- Use a wheelbarrow to move heavy objects from place to place, or have someone help you move it.
- Avoid bending to the side when trying to lift or reach something.
- Work lower to the ground when planting to avoid excess bending.
- Stay Hydrated
Being out in the hot summer sun can cause you to become dehydrated quickly. Proper hydration is great, not only for your spinal health, but for your entire body. When working in your garden, stop and take a water break every 15 to 20 minutes, or more often if your body needs it. Depending on the weather in your area, it is very important to look up guidelines on how much water to drink and how often to drink it when you are spending a lot of time in the sun and heat.
- Take Breaks
When gardening, the best thing to do is to listen to your body. If it’s telling you to stop, take a break. Breaks allow you to loosen your muscles and joints from the stiff position they were just in. This helps to avoid muscle soreness and over-straining that causes back pain. Make sure to stretch and hydrate during your break.
Don’t be discouraged by the task ahead! Depending on your area, there are plenty of options to start growing a garden, like spring vegetables and flowers. Start small, have fun with your new hobby, and remember to take breaks when needed. The most important takeaway is to listen to your body. Your body knows when it is tired and needs a break, and it will thank you for listening! If you feel prolonged back pain after or during your spring season gardening, schedule an appointment with your spine specialist at Virginia Spine Institute.
Dr. Ehsan Jazini is a board certified spine surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute. He has been the first in the nation, and in the world, to perform advanced surgical techniques in cervical disc replacement, augmented reality (AR) spine surgery, and robotic spine surgery. Dr. Jazini was the first in the world to perform Augmented Reality guided personalized spine implant surgery using artificial intelligence. As a leading published author in the field of spine surgery, Dr. Jazini was selected as the Editor in Chief of The Spine Health Journal for the National Spine Health Foundation. Learn more about Dr. Jazini.