How to avoid gardener’s back pain

What do you have planned this bank holiday weekend? If, like me, you are revelling in the thought of 3 days pottering in the garden then, also like me, you may be concerned that by Tuesday morning you will be reaching for the painkillers, booking a session with an osteopath and shuffling into work like an 80 year old.

Digging in the garden

A few simple rules

I’m the world’s worst for throwing myself with unbridled enthusiasm at the garden on days off and weekends, and then suffering for it afterwards. But it doesn’t need to hurt. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules.

1. Gardening should be viewed like any other exercise. Warm up before you start gardening by gently stretching your muscles.

2. Try not to lift heavy objects. If you have to, remember to bend your knees and keep your back straight. Pick up the object with both hands and make sure you lift close to your body as you straighten your knees. Put your wheelbarrow to good use to move heavy items around the garden.

3. Don’t bend forward from the waist (I get told off for this one all the time!). When weeding or dead heading near to the ground, bend your knees, keep your neck in a normal position and your back as straight as possible. If you are going to be down there for more than 5 minutes, kneel on a pad.

Bend your knees when you are weeding

Bend your knees when you are weeding

4.  Don’t spend more than #15greenmins on any one task.

The #15greenmins rule

Work out what you want to achieve in the time available to you, and draw up a quick timetable on a piece of paper, splitting each hour into three manageable 15-minute time slots, with a 5-minute break in between each one – how many hours you spend in the garden is up to you!

Set yourself a different task in each slot to avoid repeating the same action for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Example #15greenmins timetable

Example #15greenmins timetable

Set an alarm on your watch or phone for each 15-minute session, and take a 5-minute break when it goes off. Stretch, relax and drink some water. A few gentle back bends are good for stretching the spine, and neck and shoulder rolls will help loosen any tension in your upper body.

By avoiding prolonged repetitive actions you will avoid stressing your joints and ligaments, and at the end of the weekend you will  be able to stand upright to admire your achievements – without wincing!

Set attainable goals!

Be realistic. I know what it’s like. The weekend stretches before you in all its gloriousness, the sun is shining and in your mind you envisage pruning all your shrubs, dead heading all your annuals and weeding every border … after you’ve mowed the lawns and watered all the pots of course.

It’s supposed to be fun – not torture – so enjoy your time in the garden. As for what you can’t achieve this weekend, well there’s still the rest of the week to go at, 15 minutes of green at a time!

Let me know if this helps!

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