The Joy of Gardening


From the Healing Bridge Physical Therapy

By Annette Cyr, PTA

1. Stretch your muscles.

Especially the lower back, buttocks and legs. As with any activity, your muscles will tolerate strain more easily when they are not tight.

2. Use stabilization exercises to keep your abdominal and lower back muscles toned. These muscles help to protect your spine and pelvis from injury.

3. Watch your body mechanics. Bending over at the waist is hard on the low back. Be sure to use your legs to get up and down from the ground.

4. Maintain neutral spine as well as possible in all positions. This means keeping a small forward curve in your lower back and not reversing the curve, causing you to bend your back out of alignment and put a strain on your muscles and discs.

5. Change positions frequently to give joints and muscles a break. Positions may vary from sitting with legs crossed, kneeling, sitting with hips to one side and legs to the other and on hands and knees.

6. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and those weeds aren’t going anywhere either. Start with gardening 20-30 minutes (or less), 1-2 times a day and increase this if your body is tolerating the current effort.

7. Take breaks!! After 20-30 minutes, try standing up and extending your spine by putting your hands on your waist and bending backwards to look up at the sky. Do this gently a few times but do not continue if this causes pain.

8. If you have back pain, avoid early morning gardening. Why? a) Usually our muscles are tighter in the morning, and b) After a nights sleep, the discs in our spine are very hydrated, increasing disc volume. This increases vulnerability to injury with flexion activities.

9. Raise planting beds. The closer they are to you, the easier for your back. You can try raised beds on the ground or build platforms to make them waist high.

10. ENJOY! While you’re diligently working in the yard to make it beautiful, be sure to step back, breathe, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you!