Kelly Chiropractic
        Johnsonville, Wellington

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Keep Your Spine Safe While Gardening

While you may not have killer tomato vines lurking at the bottom of your garden there are dangers associated with gardening to be aware of.  While backache may seem like something you just need to put up with, it may be a sign that you have caused some damage to your spine which could lead to the same or worse backache next time you are gardening.

The most common injuries result from common practices such as repetitive actions or spending too long with your back bent or twisted, lifting objects awkwardly, particularly if they are heavy or difficult to hold. Other injuries to the spine can occur as a result of slipping and landing poorly.

Getting in amongst the roses (or weeds!) can be great way to give your body some gentle exercise and you can avoid the next-day stiffness or soreness by employing good gardening practices. These will help keep your spine in good condition as you beautify your garden.


Tips for safe gardening

  • 1. Before you start do some stretches. Bend your spine from side to side. Gently twist from the waist up and look over each shoulder. Warm up your leg and arm muscles too, your legs particularly should be helping out with any lifting work you will be doing.
  • 2. Whatever you are doing aim to have comfortable posture and as much as possible set yourself up to do jobs with your back straight.
  • 3. Avoid spending too long in any one position, especially if a job involves leaning over. While you may want to tackle a huge patch of weeds
  • 4. Choose gardening tools that suit your body size and height and that are most comfortable for you to use. If you are tall look for long handled tools to help avoid bending over.
  • 5. Water the garden before you work in it, to break up hard earth.
  • 6. Use a small stool or garden seat to make planting and weeding more comfortable and to avoid having your back bent over. Use a kneeling board to ensure your body is square-on to the garden, and to protect your knees.
  • 7. As a general principle push, rather than pull, when using mowers and moving wheelbarrows. This enables you to use your body weight to help shift the load.
  • 8. Put in raised garden beds which are easier to tend to. They also make flowers easy to see and enjoy and raised vegetable patches makes picking veggies a breeze. Raised garden beds can be made from stone or wood, or for a small garden use tubs or half wine barrels raised on bricks.
  • 9. Digging is an activity which is likely to result in back injury. Break big jobs into small sections and take frequent stops to rest, walk around and stretch. Avoid overloading the spade with soil, load up as much as can be lifted with ease. When shifting soil avoid twisting awkwardly while carrying the load, or at least keep the load close to your body when moving. Look for digging tools that will make the job as easy as possible. For example, use a pitchfork to break up the ground first. Pace yourself as you dig, and try to get into a gentle rhythm.
  • 10. Lifting is another dangerous activity for gardeners to be aware of.  Use your leg muscles rather than your back muscles by bending your knees. Keep your back straight and upright. Have your feet on either side of the load and keep the object close to your body as you lift it in a smooth action.
  • 11. Take care when putting down heavy objects by following the guidelines above for lifting.
  • 12. Use a wheelbarrow to carry heavy loads and place the heavy load over the wheels.What can you do about 'gardener's back'?

If you do experience an injury to your spine, or you experience prolonged back pain or stiffness you should have your spine checked. While the ache may fade the underlying problem in the spine may remain. But this does not mean there is nothing you can do to improve the condition of your spine. Chiropractors are trained to identify biomechanical problems of the spine and their primary goal is to improve the function of the spine.  An initial consultation involves reviewing your health history, checking your posture and range of motion and palpating the spine to assess how it moves.  X-rays may be also taken to assist a complete diagnosis.  After an initial exam a chiropractor will give you information about any problems they may have identified with your spine and how treatment may be able to help get your spine back to optimal function. 

Phone Kelly Chiropractic on 4786 194 to arrange your spine check.