We all become accustomed to a little bit of back pain from working in the lawn and garden. After all, many of us are employed in slightly sedentary lifestyles, where the work we do in our lawn might be the most laborious work we do all week. Going from one extreme to the other often means we end up hurting ourselves. Even some of the most athletic people struggle with back pain from gardening and landscaping, so let’s take a look at ways you may be causing back pain, and how to alleviate it.
- Not Warming Up – Even before you walk outside, you should take a few minutes to stretch and limber up. Sure, this seems like a waste of time, as Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Would you rather take a few minutes to stretch, or be laid up in pain on the couch for a few hours? The University of California provides some quick stretches you can do for your back, and other regions.
- Heavy Lifting – You don’t have to show off that you can lift an carry that 50-pound bag of yard waste. Make multiple, lighter trips or use some help, like a wagon or a wheelbarrow. Again, this might take a little more time than just lifting and carrying, but you might end up spending more time recuperating, and more time in pain.
- Not Drinking Enough Water – Water is almost like lubrication for muscles. Without enough water, your muscles will begin to ache sooner. You’ll get cramps and spasms easier, and you’ll end up with more pain. Make sure you hydrate before, during, and after working out in the lawn.
- Not Switching Sides – We all tend to use our dominant hand for the majority of the work we do, and the same goes for gardening. By switching up which side your using, you can balance the muscle usage
- Repetitive Motion – Similar to the previous issue, using the same motion to do jobs means you are only using particular muscles and muscle groups. Changing the motions being used will makes sure that more muscles bear an even load of the work, instead of a handful of muscles doing all the work.
- Doing One Job at a Time – This might sound familiar – switch things up. Don’t do all of the weeding at once, followed by all of the raking at once, followed by all of the pruning. Switch from job to job and give some of your muscle groups a rest while still getting things done, reducing the likelihood of pain or strains.
- Working Straight Through – Many of us approach yard work as something we need to power through, and get done all at once. You’re better off taking a leisurely approach, and adopting a method where you take five minutes off after every half-hour of work, or ten minutes off after every hour. In this break time, hydrate and stretch.
- Improper Posture – Stand up straight, don’t lunge forward when you’re pushing your mower. This will cause strain to parts of your back that will cause pain later. One of the worst causes of pain is weeding, and its because we do it wrong – don’t bend over, kneel or sit to pull weeds. Use tools to work the tougher weeds out of the ground, instead of trying to just yank.
- Bad Vibrations – Almost every power tool has some sort of vibration. You may not realize it, but your body is constantly making minor adjustments to compensate for these minor vibrations. Take a break from push mowing every so often, or even from using a riding mower – the constant vibrations felt through the seat can wreak havoc on your lower back. Another way to reduce pain fro this is to switch to electric tools from engine-powered.
- Carrying the Load Wrong – Even if your heavier power tools don’t come with one, having a strap that can spread the weight across your body, instead of centered on your arms or a particular area of your back, is a great investment. Balancing the load lets all muscle work to carry it, instead of particular muscles.
- Not Cooling Down at the End – Just like warming up, many of us fail to wind down properly. This should include doing more stretches, similar to the ones mentioned earlier, as well as continuing to hydrate. Preventative anti-inflammatories such as aspirin can be used even before the pain starts, while using heat and ice therapy even when there is no pain can keep muscles loose and keep the pain away.
So take care of your back, you’re going to need it for a long time. Your yard will come and go, but not taking care of your back can lead to pain that will last your lifetime.