After working in the garden and yard, lower back pain can strike you down, causing you to ache for days. You can prevent back pain by practicing good posture while working outside. Whether you’re sitting on the mower or pushing it, digging holes to plant trees, or weeding the vegetable garden, there are several steps you can take to avoid back aches. Last month, we covered the importance of good body mechanics to ensure your spinal health. This month, we expand on that with five specific tips to ease your work in the garden and yard.
If you’re like most people, you dive right into yard work without warming up your muscles. All it takes to warm up is a brief walk or march in place and a few arm and spine stretches. Warming up your body helps get the blood flowing, which makes your muscles more supple and prepared for the strain of the work ahead. Ease into the work to give your body time to adjust. One idea is to start by watering plants, then stretch and begin your yard work.
When working with tools or equipment, you will want to remain centered as much as possible with the item you’re using. The less you twist and overreach, the better! For example, with a push lawn mower, you will want to keep it centered in front of you as much as possible. With tools like rakes and hoes, the same principle applies. If you tend to rake one direction more than the other, be sure to switch sides so you can avoid pain on one side. Keep your core engaged as you push, pull, rake, or weed. You will get a workout, but your posture and engagement will help protect your back.
Take Stretch Breaks
If you’re down on the ground planting flowers or weeding, remember to stand up and take a break! Straightening out your body and repositioning yourself will help prevent pain and make you aware of the muscles that may be feeling strained. You can stretch them out anytime to further improve blood flow and encourage the muscles to relax rather than contract.
If your lower back is feeling tight, do a cat stretch to ease the tightness. This can be done in a chair, on all fours, or while standing. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, and never stretch to the point of pain. Shoulders can also become tight when working outdoors. Take a moment to stretch each shoulder gently to keep them loose. After working, be sure to stretch your body one more time to prevent muscle aches and pains.
While you work in your yard and garden, be sure to stay hydrated. Iowa summers get hot and sticky, and you can sweat a lot while weeding or mowing. Water intake is key to avoiding dehydration. Plus, your muscles depend on good hydration for optimal function. One idea is to fill up a water bottle halfway and put it in the freezer. Once it is frozen, you can fill it the rest of the way with cold water and take it outside with you so you can refresh yourself while you work. Some people like insulated water bottles, filled to the brim with ice and water. Whatever you choose, your muscles will thank you for keeping them hydrated and supple!
After you’re done weeding, mulching, mowing, or raking, make sure to stretch one more time, then get some rest. Put away the equipment and tools and admire your work. Treat yourself to a healthy meal using some of your garden harvest!
If you overdo it and have acute back pain, make an appointment with Dr. Stemmerman for osteopathic treatment. Her osteopathic techniques will relieve your muscle pain and strain. She can also assess your physical condition and help you develop an exercise plan to become stronger so you can be less prone to muscle strain and back problems.