Here's a real backsaver from Dr. David Wang, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine (www.kaplanclinic.com)
“Over 80% of people will have low back pain at some point during life, although most of them fortunately recover on their own.” explains Dr. David Wang, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine (www.kaplanclinic.com), located in McLean, VA. “When it comes to gardening and back pain, your body may need a few weeks after the long winter to become accustomed again to the physical stresses of gardening, such as squatting, twisting, lifting and digging.”
Precautions you can take to limit back pain when gardening include:
- Begin slowly, rather than trying to do too much in one session. Split larger gardening projects into several shorter sessions while you build your stamina.
- Think of it like other forms of physical activity, and always warm up before you begin with 10-20 repetitions of gentle exercises like standing hip circles, toe touches, back bends, and leg lifts. Again, gentle is the key!
- Pay attention to your body position when lifting heavy objects, such as planters and bags of fertilizer. Keep the item close to your body, and bend your knees (squat) so that you can keep your back as vertical as possible when you pick up the object, allowing you to lift with the leg muscles rather than straining the back muscles.
- Be sure to take breaks and to change your position every 15 minutes or so, especially if you are kneeling, squatting, or sitting in a bent or twisted position.
- Invest in good, long-handled gardening tools, which will help minimize the amount of back bending that you need to do.
- If back pain is a consistent problem, consider creating raised garden beds, which will also help to reduce the amount of bending that is needed.
- It is important to always warm up, avoid over-exerting muscles, use proper equipment, , and take breaks to give your body time to rest.
- If your muscles are not very flexible, it is also important to stretch after activity, holding each stretch for 30 seconds, to gradually improve your flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
- Consider working with a physical therapist or highly-qualified and experienced personal trainer for several weeks before starting the sports season. This will allow you to properly prepare and condition your body for sports-specific activities.