3 Simple Ways to Prevent Back Pain While Gardening

Tending to your flowers and vegetables as the summer sun shines down is a glorious feeling indeed... until your back starts to hurt, or your neck and shoulders. Or when you try to stand up after bending down to pluck out the weeds, you feel like you have aged twenty years.

There are a few simple things you can do to keep your body happy while you are keeping your garden happy. Gardening is a therapeutic activity that slows us down and reconnects us to the rhythm of nature. Combining the mindfulness of how we move and hold our body along with the sensory experience of placing our hands in the dirt, gazing at a multitude of colours and breathing in nature's fragrances all add up to a very nourishing experience on all levels.

 

1. When in Doubt, Stick Your Butt Out

The Problem:

Most of us tend to bend over just a little bit from the hips and mostly from the back. What does that look like? You get a tucked tailbone and pelvis with a deep rounding of the spine. Bending down this way places a lot of unnecessary pressure on the spine. The source of many people's low back pain comes from moving (and sitting) this way.

 

The Solution:

Un-tuck your pelvis and keep the weight back over your heels so that your leg bones and posterior leg muscles (your butt muscles and hamstrings) are doing the important job of holding you up.  How do you know if you are un-tucking your pelvis? You want to make sure you have that lovely lumbar curve in your lower back. To maintain your lumbar curve when bending over, tilt forward from your pelvis, stick your butt out and back. Keep in mind for maximum happy body and minimum pain, only bend as far as you can maintain that lumbar curve. Try it in front of a mirror if you are not sure how far you can really go.

 

Notice the rounding of my low back and pelvis? I am also holding most of my weight on one leg and in one arm, placing unnecessary work and strain in my hip joint and shoulders.

Notice the rounding of my low back and pelvis? I am also holding most of my weight on one leg and in one arm, placing unnecessary work and strain in my hip joint and shoulders.

Check out the low back (lumbar curve) once I shifted my hips back, balanced the weight between both legs and un-tucked my pelvis. I get to strengthen my legs and butt and  stretch my hamstrings while tending to my herbs. Win, win!  *While this is a healthier way to stand, if you are new to this, it can take time for your body to adapt. Change positions if you notice discomfort.

Check out the low back (lumbar curve) once I shifted my hips back, balanced the weight between both legs and un-tucked my pelvis. I get to strengthen my legs and butt and  stretch my hamstrings while tending to my herbs. Win, win! 

*While this is a healthier way to stand, if you are new to this, it can take time for your body to adapt. Change positions if you notice discomfort.

 
Look at that tucked pelvis and rounded back! 

Look at that tucked pelvis and rounded back! 

A simple un-tucking of my pelvis makes my back happy. Look at how much more relaxed my shoulders look as well. 

A simple un-tucking of my pelvis makes my back happy. Look at how much more relaxed my shoulders look as well. 

2. Change Positions Often

The Problem: 

Staying in the same positions for too long. Even in a more aligned position, your body and joints are the most happy when they can move in all sorts of ways. Often when we get in immersed in an activity such as gardening, we tend to always sit or move in our habitual ways. That hunched standing and sitting often becomes the default position.

The Solution:

Change it up and change it frequently. A good reminder to change positions is when your body starts to get uncomfortable. Listen to those signals and find a new way to move. 

Spend time with one leg extended the switch to the other. 

Spend time with one leg extended the switch to the other. 

If your hips are really tight, sitting up into a small cushion or yoga prop will make a big difference.

If your hips are really tight, sitting up into a small cushion or yoga prop will make a big difference.

3. Stretch Your Hips & Keep Your Joints Happy

The Problem:

Tight hips will affect your ability to have a happy forward bend and joint range of motion. And even with the best of intentions, your back might still hurt after spending a few hours in your garden. 

The Solution:

Take a few stretching breaks to ease any tension and keep your blood flowing. Take some time afterward to do the best leg stretch you will ever do or these simple movements.

Try out these two happy hip openers:

A supported squat helps your hip joints. If you don't have a tall garden bed, use a tree that you can wrap your hands around. Line your knees over your ankles so that your shins are vertical. Stick your butt way out to un-tuck your pelvis. Holding onto something also gives a nice stretch to your shoulders and arms.

A supported squat helps your hip joints. If you don't have a tall garden bed, use a tree that you can wrap your hands around. Line your knees over your ankles so that your shins are vertical. Stick your butt way out to un-tuck your pelvis. Holding onto something also gives a nice stretch to your shoulders and arms.

For even more hip love, keep your shins vertical and take one ankle over the opposite thigh. Keep sticking our butt out and make sure your pelvis is still un-tucked. Switch legs after a minute or so. Feels soooo good!

For even more hip love, keep your shins vertical and take one ankle over the opposite thigh. Keep sticking our butt out and make sure your pelvis is still un-tucked. Switch legs after a minute or so. Feels soooo good!

What are you growing and loving in your garden this summer? What do you do to keep your body happy? Please share in the comments. Happy gardening everyone!