Top tips to protect your back when gardening

08 March 2018

Before you pull on gardening gloves, make time for some back exercises to prevent aches and pains later. Malcolm Martin, highly specialist physiotherapist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital shares some top tips.

If you were at the gym, you would warm up first before you used the exercise machines. Then, you would gradually build up the weights on the machine and, hopefully, never push more weight than you can lift. You’d have a bottle of water by your side and would probably be in the shower after an hour. Now replicate that same scenario in the garden. Gardening has been likened to a work-out in nature’s gym, so protect your back by following similar rules…

  • Warm up by walking round the garden, swinging your arms and rolling your neck and shoulders. If your lawn is small to medium size, use mowing as a warm up exercise.
  • Carry heavy items close to your chest, and bend your knees when lifting objects so that your legs take the strain. If you are lifting bags of compost or moving heavy pots around, invest in a garden trolley.
  • Begin with just an hour or so in the garden and alternate with a mix of light and heavy duties such as digging and then pruning.
  • If you are spending the day in the garden, rest for 10 minutes every hour.
  • Invest in long handled garden tools to prevent overreaching or bending.
  • Avoid overfilling garden bags with clippings. You should be able to lift them easily.
  • Drink plenty of water while gardening to hydrate the synovial fluid that lies between the discs of the spine and aid recovery.

What to do if you have a sudden pain in your back?

Stop gardening immediately but keep moving in between rests, such as gentle walking. Put hot and cold compresses on the area and take anti-inflammatories. The pain is likely to settle down after rest. If the symptoms persist, see your GP or you can self-refer to a physiotherapist.

Advice from Malcolm Martin, highly specialist physiotherapist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital. Call on 01293 778906 to find out more.

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