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Common gardening mistakes that are bad for your back

This time of year, everyone starts going out into the garden and they tend to overdo it a little. Here at Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne I have more and more people coming in with injuries related to what they’ve done in the garden. Some have just overdone it but others will continue to do things that are bad for their backs and necks. So I thought I’d go through and describe some of the most common mistakes that people do that aggravates their body.

Weeding in the garden

The first one that lots of people do that causes injury is weeding. This can be a very bad thing for the back when done with poor posture. We don’t consider it necessarily that bad because we’re not necessarily carrying a heavy weight. The realism is that as we are pulling, yanking, tugging on these weeds this provides the same increased pressures as lifting. The stronger we have to pull the heavier the weight it could be compared to. This means that a lot more pressure is put on the muscles, the joints the ligaments and even the disc in the spine. As a result of this I am seeing lots of people who have aggravated their back’s, especially if they already had low back issues.

Obviously, what we also do is we aim to do a small area in the first place for half an hour or so but that area soon gets bigger and becomes longer. This then results in us suffering for a few days. This means that you have actually injured your spine, it may not cause you a long-term problem now but with repetitive use and repetitive damage like this it can lead to a real problem. So, it is best to adopt good positions whilst weeding now rather than when you actually have a back problem.

First keeping your back straight you can usually do this by kneeling, this gets you closer to the weeds and therefore easier to get into the area but also without putting that pressure through the spine.

A picture of man kneeling in front of weeds to be down at a lower level to accompany the blog on gardening by Eastbourne Chiropractor Mykel Mason

Kneeling whilst weeding

Using specific tools can be very helpful also, they help to loosen the soil and release the weeds which means it takes less pressure to pull them out. Some people won’t be able to do it like this because they can’t bend due to their knees. In this case you can do what’s called a golfer’s lift where you can grab on to the weed and used your momentum going backwards to pull it out without having to round your back. Again, the use of tools to help to loosen the weed and the soil around it is very very useful so that you don’t have to use as much pressure to pull it out.

The picture demonstrates a man bending over with his back leg out whilst he reaches down and pulls on a weed. To accompany the blog on gardening by Eastbourne Chiropractor Mykel Mason

A straight back demonstrated with a golfer’s lift whilst weeding

Trimming the hedges

The other thing we do at this time is we like to reshape our garden so it grows in the right way. This means we’re out there with the secateurs and big scissors trimming things back. What we tend to do when we do this as we tend to reach and crane and try and get into awkward positions to get those little bits. Realistically what we should do is just move because some things can be quite high. Getting a step ladder is very useful so we can get those top bits without having to reach so far. Reaching can lead to pulling in lower back muscles that can lead to aggravating the shoulders, it can also lead to the neck craning so can lead to injury. Especially if you do this a lot and the likelihood is the next day you will wake up with a pain or two and if you do this repetitively, once again this can lead to long-term issues.

A picture of a man trimming the high parts of a tree and overreaching so risking more damage. To accompany the blog on gardening by Eastbourne Chiropractor Mykel Mason

Trimming hedges whilst overstretching

Replanting

The other thing that we do at this time is replanting. This means that we are digging and moving soil. With this we need to make sure that we move things in the best way possible with digging getting your body behind the way as you put the pressure into the ground is really important that again keeping the back straight is incredibly important. What we tend to do is we tend to round our backs as we do this which again can lead to injury as that is a position that the back is very susceptible to injury.

Moving soil can be very detrimental also, when we move it with a shovel or spade it is important again to keep the back straight and you want the pressure to go through the legs instead again what we tend to do is round the back and use our back to help us to move the soil this is not ideal and again can lead to injury.

You want to adopt a long forward stance and this can help to keep the back straight. When moving bags of soil, it can be incredibly heavy so if you do you have a wheelbarrow this can be very helpful, alternatively having someone help you carry them is definitely a good option. This means that you spread the weight which means you are literally carrying half the weight that you would have been.

Yours in health

 

Mykel Mason your Eastbourne chiropractor

 

A chiropractor’s guide to protecting the back when gardening

So the focus for my blog this month is GARDENING and some tips for protecting the back when gardening.  It is inspired by my mum and all my patients here in Eastbourne who are just starting to get back out in the garden now the weather is warming up.

Getting out in the garden can be very therapeutic. It can be stress relieving and being out in the fresh air is lovely, plus the sun is great for Vitamin D levels.  Growing plants, especially your own vegetables can be very satisfying, and having that nice environment to sit out in on a nice summers day or for a BBQ is well worth the effort.

Of course, as a chiropractor here at Lushington Chiropractic there are a few things I would say to keep in mind.  If you are prone to back problems, it is important to be aware that certain activities can exacerbate discomfort and that certain steps should be taken to protect your back when gardening.  I firstly started out doing a little research of my own by getting out in the garden at home to appreciate what it is my patients are doing when they tell me they have been doing a little digging!  Wow when those roots are holding tight they are hard to get out! Not like the plants we have in our little patio garden outside of our X-Ray suite.

Image shows James Revell - Doctor of chiropractic getting to grips with the patio plants outside of the Lushington Chiropractic X-Ray Suite here in Eastbourne.

James getting to grips with the patio plants.

So what is it about gardening that means we need to take care?

To those unfamiliar with what is entailed in maintaining an attractive and orderly outdoor space, gardening may seem like a sedate pastime. Yet, the reality is that many aspects of gardening can involve sudden bursts of activity that the body may well not be ready for, such as twisting and lifting. Combine these movements with poor posture and poor technique and the results can be extremely painful.

The first point to make is that if you have good strong core and back muscles and have looked after your back in other daily activities and sports then your body is much more likely to be robust and ready for the exercises and challenges that you may throw at it.

If you are unsure about how to do this then ask advice from someone who can help, such as a chiropractor or a good personal trainer.

Secondly here are some tips that you should bear in mind:

Like any other exercise, start off slowly and warm up.  Going for a gentle walk, doing some light movement or starting off with lighter/easier jobs first will help your body warm up and lessen the chance of muscle strain. This may seem like overkill for a spot of gardening, but if you are serious about protecting your back it can be essential.

You will also need to wear clothes that are suitable for the task at hand when you step outside.  Tight clothes could constrict your movement. Also be mindful of the type of footwear that you have to prevent slipping in wet conditions.

When using a ladder or steps, make sure it is planted firmly in position.  Have someone with you if necessary to help and try not to overextend when you reach or lean out. Avoid this temptation by moving the ladder frequently when you are working over a large area.

Over-reaching and leaning is one to avoid even when not on a ladder.  Keep what you are doing closer to you, this will put less strain on the body.  You can get tools with longer handles to help with this.

Image shows Doctor of Chiropractic James Revell of Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne attending to the plants on the patio of the X-Ray suite.

Gardening? Not much digging going on here!

When digging, push down rather than pushing too far out in front, this helps to minimise bending.

If you are buying heavy items that are delivered, have them dropped off as close to where you need them as you can, to avoid having to carry them later.  Also if you are buying big bags of compost for instance, consider getting more smaller bags to make the lifting easier and alway carry heavy things close to the body.  A wheelbarrow is also handy to limit carrying.

If you are doing lots of potting, think about doing this on on a work surface at a comfortable height so as to limit stooping over.

Vary your activity and take regular breaks, don’t be tempted to do it all once due to the weather forecast!

A knee pad is useful for those knees, rather than kneeling on hard surfaces.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated in hot weather.

Finally if you think something is a bit too much, get someone to help out, take it easy and don’t overdo it.

If you are concerned about protecting the back when gardening, consider all the points above when you are getting outside this summer.  If you need some further advice or have back pain you can always contact us.  Our website is a good place to start.

Thats all for now, above all enjoy!

James