If you’re like me, the idea of walking out your back door to pick vegetables for dinner is incredibly appealing. Right now, my back patio is home to three large tomato plants and two huge pots of greens. This weekend, I’ll plant the rest of my garden, water, and wait for the returns.
Unfortunately, my lower back is home to a nagging pain, which is telling me I’ve overdone it in the garden this past weekend. With a little rest, and the humility to ask for help from someone stronger than me, I’ll be fine.
As much as I love to see patients in my clinic, I hate to see people in unbearable pain, especially if that pain is avoidable. As a result, here is a compilation of tips and guidelines for pain-free gardening.
Repeat after me. Many of the injuries that occur from gardening are from repetitive motions. So, switch it up to avoid the same motion over and over. If you have a job that’s going to take a couple of hours, take breaks, walk around, stretch, or do something else for a few minutes.
Your aching back. To avoid back pain, use a wheel barrow or share heavy loads with someone else. If you’re weeding or planting, kneel if possible to avoid constantly bending over.
Let pain be your guide. If you’re feeling any pain, especially in your back, it’s your body’s signal that it’s time to stop.
Pace yourself. You don’t have to finish it all today. Remember, gardening is supposed to feed your soul as well as feed your family—the joy is in the process as well as in the end result.
Use the right tools. Use well-designed tools with grips that are either padded or non-slip material. Keep your gardening tools sharp and in good shape to reduce the physical effort needed as you work.
Protect yourself. Wear gardening gloves to avoid injuries and infections. All kinds of bacteria and fungus live in the soil, and the smallest cut, if unprotected, can become infected. Also, wear sunscreen or cover up to avoid sunburn that damages and prematurely ages your skin.
Gardening is a great way to get some exercise, grow your own local and organic foods, honor the season, and feed your soul. With a little prevention, the only thing I’ll hear about is the abundant produce and beautiful flowers you’re growing—not your aches and pains!