Tis the season. No, not for hanging stockings and festive lights. It’s the season for planting, growing, tending and harvesting. For Thurston County residents, the growing season is in full swing and that means yard work – lots of yard work.

For some, it’s staying on top of the weeds in your flower beds and keeping your yard tidy. For others, it means cultivating tender spring sprouts into a full-blown harvest. Whichever category you fall into (maybe both), you’ll be working hard to reach your gardening goals. And sometimes, all that work comes with a price – an aching back and sore, stiff muscles.

avoid back pain garden
The right tool, such as this small garden fork, enables gardening from a standing versus kneeling position.

Eastside Chiropractic sees their fair share of weekend warriors visiting their Tumwater office after overdoing it in the yard. Dr. Murray Smith has a few tips to offer to help reduce the pain and increase the enjoyment of a season spent in your garden. And, while some of these may seem like no-brainers, we often forget to put them into practice until it’s too late and you are calling for an appointment with Dr. Smith or to schedule a massage.

  1. Warm Up First – While you aren’t preparing to run a marathon, you are preparing to utilize muscles that may be tight. Taking a five or ten minute walk and doing a few basic stretches will get your muscles ready for the bending and reaching that will inevitably follow.
  1. Bend from the hip – Avoid prolonged flexion of the spine – bending down by curving the spine. Instead, hinge forward from the hip, keeping the spine in alignment. This will reduce the strain on the spine and prolong the time you can spend in the garden pain free.
  1. Take breaks and switch tasks – Sometime I get focused on a goal, such as finishing an entire bed of weeding, and don’t want to stop until I’ve done it. The result? I can barely stand up when I’m done. Instead of going full-speed, take breaks every 20 minutes or so. Stand and stretch. Get a drink of water. Take a walk around the yard. Once rested, attack a new task such as deadheading or watering your planters – a standing or sitting task – before returning to finish weeding that flower bed.
  1. avoid back pain garden
    Even if you don’t own a gardening stool or kneeler, an overturned crate or bucket makes a handy stool.

    Use the right tools for the job – There are a myriad of different gardening tools and aids on the market and choosing the right ones can be confusing. But, with the right tools at hand, gardening chores can become easier and cause less strain on your body. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Padded kneeler/stool – This can be a lifesaver in the garden. Choose one that has a padded kneeling surface as well as handles to assist you getting up and down. Most handled varieties double as a garden stool when turned over, giving you the opportunity to change your posture during your work time.
  • Long-handled tools – Purchasing trowels or garden forks with longer (up to three feet) handles limits the bending and reaching needed to get pesky weeds. Combining the long handle with a stool allows for bending at the hip, as well, and saves the back a lot of strain.
  • Ratchet or power pruners – If hand strength and weakness are an issue, invest in a ratchet style pruner or a power pruner. These tools require little hand strength yet still get the job done quickly.
  1. Long handled tools, like this hand-held rake, enables you to reach around plants and to the back of beds without awkward bending and reaching.
    Long handled tools, like this hand-held rake, enables you to reach around plants and to the back of beds without awkward bending and reaching.

    Use a cart or wagon – Utilize a tool bucket or cart to keep your gardening tools at the ready. A two-wheeled garden cart or a four-wheeled garden wagon are more ergonomic ways to carry your tools and materials with you rather than a wheelbarrow or bucket. Both of the latter options can be hard on the back and require more core strength and bending.

  1. Know your limits and ask for help – This suggestion can be tough for those of us who think we can do it all. But, there comes a point when we need to ask for help. Some tasks are better left to a team – either paid professionals or willing kids, grandkids, or neighbors. Know your limits and seek help when needed.
  1. Change your task, and posture, every 20 minutes. Try a job standing upright, such as dead-heading the hanging baskets.
    Change your task, and posture, every 20 minutes. Try a job standing upright, such as dead-heading the hanging baskets.

    Treat your body well – In all things, gardening included, a healthy, strong body will take you far. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, eat a balanced and healthy diet and exercise regularly. If your body is used to moving each day, those hours in the garden during the summer won’t feel so foreign. And, if you’d like to improve your gardening strength and stamina, seek the advice of Mike Jensen at Eastside Chiro. His gentle, custom training programs can increase strength, flexibility, and stamina – all essential for a successful day in the garden.

  1. Seek relief for aches and pains – If you overdo it a bit this season in the garden, seek relief from your pain through rest and possibly a visit to Eastside Chiropractic for an assessment, adjustment or massage.

Eastside Chiropractic
1526 Bishop Rd. SW, Tumwater


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