Have you ever decided to spade up some established grassy area in your yard because you just had to plant more flowers? Have you ever moved rocks, concrete blocks, or timbers to add definition to your garden? Have you ever transplanted trees or shrubs by hand? Have you ever gone head to head with the quack grass and dandelions common to most yards? Have you ever dragged lengths of garden hose for miles?
Have you ever hurt yourself gardening? Chiropractor Brad Remenda sees the results daily in his practice.
The late, late spring often frustrates gardeners and possibly adds a sense of urgency to getting the job done. After all, with our short zone 2 season, gung ho gardeners don’t have forever to rake, mulch, spade, plant, transplant, weed, water, prune and upkeep. So working too hard and too long in perhaps the wrong position gets us onto Brad’s treatment table.
“Lower back pain is the most common gardening injury we see,” says Remenda. “And much of the pain and discomfort is preventable with proper pacing, tools and techniques.”
“Dwayne (fellow chiropractor and brother) and I advise our patients to go slow. You can’t do it all in one day, nor should you. Taking frequent breaks is essential. Using long handled, ergonomically designed tools like shovels and rakes increases your reach and reduces the strain on your back,” adds Remenda.
“Avoid twisting your back when lifting or performing repetitive motions like raking. It’s been said a million times but it’s true—bend at the knees rather than the waist. That lets your legs do the hardest part. It goes without saying that good physical conditioning makes for a stronger back,” concludes Remenda. “And of course icing the injured area and seeing your chiropractor for an adjustment makes good sense.”
Gardening guru Mark Cullen says the second area most prone to gardening pain is the knees. Using kneepads and always bending only one knee at a time prevents undue stress on the back and knees.
Cullen recommends garden tools with padded grips and long, extensible handles. Ratchet pruners are easiest on arthritic hands. Choosing the right tool for the job is common sense. A short-handled spade may be ideal for moving lightweight compost around. For some serious digging the pros use long handled shovels. Keeping your back as straight as possible and bending the knees slightly is the safest stance.
Working smarter instead of harder is something I’m really trying to aim for. I’ve got way too many areas that aren’t properly mulched for water retention and weed suppression. A simple “Y” fitting at the outside tap and two lengths of hose dedicated to different areas cuts down on the dragging I do. Sweet-talking your man into the really heavy lifting is also advised.
Finally, frequent breaks on a chaise lounge in the shade of a specimen tree with a drink in hand while cloud watching have got to be good for back. I just know it. From where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission