Gardening with a spring in your step & a happy back

Summer is almost here, bees are buzzing, flowers & veggies are blooming and so are the weeds!

I am a gardening fanatic, just love getting my hands dirty, but so often I have gone for a bit of a “look” at the garden and emerged 2 hours later after getting sidetracked!! Sound familiar?

If you have a long-term back problem, gardening often means pain…pain…pain! A few hours in the garden can mean 2 days lying on the couch unable to move!

Take heart though, with a little planning, this does not have to be the case. Here are a few trusty tips to make life a little easier for you in the garden:


-Gardening can be physically demanding, so if you haven’t done any for a while, start with small periods of time, even 15 minutes, but do this regularly. This gets your body used to the new activity and the muscles that are needed can strengthen up.

-There is no value in being a weekend cowboy, being bent over for 6 hours, because both you and I know, that you will spend the next 2 days in agony!

-Ideally you need to allow a minimum of 3 gardening periods a week, but if you can, every day is preferable.

-Start with 30 minutes (it’s not that hard to drag yourself out of bed a bit earlier, try it, the mornings are wonderful). If at the end of the time allotted, your back is sore, then the next time you garden, spend 5 minutes less. It is important to find a period of time that you can cope with that doesn’t cause your back to start aching. If your back is fine with 30 minutes, after a week increase the time, but always stop after 30 minutes & stretch, maybe do some watering or something upright. Working for a total of 1 1/2 hours is a useful maximum even if you are coping well.

-USE A TIMER! When you are enjoying yourself, time goes fast. DON’T WORK FOR LONGER THAT PLANNED, this is the slippery slope to pain.

-You will be amazed how quickly your legs and arms strengthen & also how much gardening you do.


Stopping midway through a job is frustrating, so give yourself manageable tasks that you can finish in 30 minutes, that way you don’t “overdo” & you are satisfied with a hob finished! Work just one garden bed, or a square metre of a garden bed, or prune one rose, plant just one punnet of seedlings… get the picture?!


-Be smart and mix it up!

-Different garden jobs cause different stresses to each part of the spine. Pruning above your head is tough for the neck, digging with a spade is tough for your lower back & bending over with straight knees is bad for everything! In your allotted time, do a few different tasks, eg. dig for 10 minutes, prune for 10, weed for 5 & water for 5 minutes, multi tasking at its best!


-Bending over with straight knees places high loads on all of the spine & often this is the reason you will get pain with gardening. So… bend your knees!

-Half squat, bending your hips and knees but not your back. This is a simple movement but you might need to get your physio to show you the correct way. It’s important to get it right.

-Change position regularly, I squat, kneel & sit on the ground when I’m weeding, it might not be glamorous, but I don’t get sore! There are kneeling pads, portable seats ect. that you can buy, but I find some old shorts & grubby knees works fine for me.

This should give you a good start for some happy gardening, but LifeCare Cottesloe Physiotherapy are always there to help if everything doesn’t go to plan & you need some individual advice or treatment!! Click here to book online or give us a call on 08 93843269.

November 6, 2017

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