Springtime gardening and back pain; Four tips to avoid a back injury.

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It is spring and as we enter May, many of you no doubt are looking at your gardens and shrubs and thinking about which ones need to be replaced and which areas would benefit from flowers.

These activities are more physical than you may realize, and often result in back pain caused by sprains to the back which are preventable.

Sustained postures where someone is bent over for a long time can also make your back and legs ache later on. Here are how other cultures do this which can help you stay pain-free in the garden.

Small plants are not difficult to put into the ground, but often, we purchase large bags of planting soil which if lifted improperly can cause a back problem which is only apparent later on. Sometimes, having two people lift can help as well as using a wheelbarrow.

Larger plants require you to dig a deeper hold and often, we find ourselves removing an older plant that may have developed a deeper and developed root system that can be difficult to dislodge.  If you are not careful, you can find yourself in quite a bit of pain that requires a few visits to the chiropractor.  For deeply rooted plants, you will need to cut and perhaps dig out the old roots, which can require a lot of physical work, but if done carefully and properly, it can help your back avoid injury.

Important tips to prevent gardening-related back pain.

1. Always be careful with large plants and bushes.  They can cause an uneven load shift which is sudden and injure your back.   If possible, use two people to lift the plant and place it in the hole before you cover it up. If you are by yourself, sometimes a wheelbarrow can help since you can place the plant in it and then slide the plant into the hole.  Two people is a better strategy however, this works.

2. Avoid twisting and lifting when lifting bags of mulch or soil out of your care.  Twisting and lifting is where many lower back injuries occur and with a 50-pound bag, can result in a significant lower back injury.

3. Be sure to fully dislodge the roots of plants before trying to yank them out of the ground.   Tools like an ice breaker or a metal shovel can help chop up the root.   A tree branch cutter can help as well and for large roots, sometimes you will need a power tool such as a gas saw to do the job.   Once the old bush is loose enough, it will often come out more easily and you can use a shovel to help push it and dislodge it from the rest of the root safely.  Be careful picking up the old plant too, since it may weigh much more than you think it does and a wheel barrow or cart may be helpful in helping you throw away the dead plant safely.  Some townships will pick these up if you cut them up into small pieces.

4. If you are feeling stiff prior to doing your gardening, using a foam roller may be helpful, since it will improve your flexibility and help you avoid injury as well.  You can see our foam roller videos here.  

A good quality foam roller can be purchased for around $40 from our offices.