Gateau Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine

Gardening and Low Back Pain

by Lindsay Lavato, DPT, May 4, 2017

family gardening

As the warmer weather and sunshine arrive, gardening is often a top item on the spring to-do list! While gardening may seem to be a peaceful and slow-paced activity, after a long day of work in the yard, you may find yourself complaining of some aches and pains, particularly in the lower back. There are a few helpful hints that can prevent low back pain and other injuries while gardening.

Pay Attention to Body Mechanics:

  • When lifting, keep objects close to your body, tighten the abdominals, and maintain the natural curves of the spine.
  • When kneeling, try to have one knee on the ground and the other up, and switch knees as needed to alleviate pressure.
  • Avoid twisting at the waist when moving things to the side; move your feet to turn your whole body.

Let Tools Help You

  • Wheelbarrows and garden carts….helpful to carry heavier objects.
  • Vertical, elevated, and raised beds….you don’t always have to go to the plants, let them come to you!
  • Garden stools and benches….reduce the need for squatting when planting and weeding.
  • Cushioned kneelers with handles….help decrease pressure on the knees and make it easier to stand up.
  • Ergonomic tools….larger or curved- handled tools can be helpful if you have arthritis in the hands.

Prevention is Key

  • Warm up before gardening—perform a brisk 10 minute walk and stretches for the spine
  • Strong core muscles and flexibility are key to preventing injuries.
  • Change positions frequently to avoid stiffness or cramping.

If you suffer from back pain that is aggravated by gardening or prevents you from participating in gardening activities that you may enjoy, seeking advice from a physical therapist can be helpful. A physical therapist can provide a thorough assessment of your range of motion, strength, and flexibility and guide you with exercises and hands-on techniques to help alleviate your pain complaints.