Recent figures show that back and neck pain has risen by 12% in the last year with 2 in 5 adults two in five affected!
Our body has the capability to adapt and become strong enough to tackle most projects provided we give it time to build up strength and endurance. Just like you would not run a marathon without training, gardening is no different. Research within sport has shown that if we build up by 10% every time we exercise we can gradually teach the body to do more and more and this is the same with each gardening session. The problem is with the UK weather and when the sun shines, we hit the garden hard and fast! Ideally, start with just a couple of hours and build up slowly.
When spring arrives, we suddenly expect our body to be ready to haul 100L bags of compost in to the car, bend over weeding and planting all day with no warm up and no gradual increase in activity. After a long winter, a little preparation of the body before you begin will pay dividends so make the effort to warm up and stretch like you would before any other exercise activity.
Top tips for pain free gardening
- Do some gentle spinal mobility exercises such as pelvic tilting before you start
- Take a few weeks to build up to the heavier and more demanding jobs.
- Try to buy bags of compost in smaller quantities. This may cost a little more but reduces the physio bills!
- Take care when lifting or better still ask for help. For lifting and carrying heavy weights, the hips and thighs are more powerful and better equipped to deal with the load than the back, always bend from the hips as we doin our Monkey Squat in class;
- Don't overfill the wheelbarrow or the watering can – do more trips.
- Don’t lift and twist in the same movement and take care turning the mower.
- Don’t hunch over or over reach. Try to get in to a comfortable position before you start and regularly change posture.
- If you have back pain, plant low maintenance shrubs and perennials and choose plants for ground cover to reduce the need for continuous weeding.
- Choose lightweight tools appropriate for your height – some have adjustable length handles.
- Only spend a maximum of 20 mins bent down in one position before walking around for 5 minutes. Keep switching jobs.
- Use kneeling pads and stools to protect your knees.
- Use raised beds and pots to minimize the bending.
- Remember to pace yourself. Do the hard stuff first, before you’re tired out and more likely to over strain yourself.
- When you have finished your garden, release your back by doing some cat stretches, hip rolls, and maybe a short walk too!
Pain is nature’s way of telling you to change what you are doing before you hurt yourself. Usually these aches and pains go quite quickly, but if you have more persistent niggling pains that limit your gardening, we are here to help with treatment and advice.
Linda and the team recommend trying the following exercises after your gardening session!