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Summer and the Spine: 10 Tips to Prevent Back Pain when Gardening

Finally, with lighter evenings and warmer weather, spring is in the air and we can almost taste summer. With a (hopefully sunny) bank holiday weekend coming up, it’s the season we start thinking about spending more time outdoors and tidying up our gardens! It’s worth  noting, however, that it can be all too easy to step out with great enthusiasm and good intentions but it’s important not to physically overdo things! Respect your body and know your limits!

We have asked our friend Nigel, who has been a professional gardener for over 50 years, his advice on how to look after your body when gardening. Here are his top 10 safety tips:

1. Warm up before you start!

Gardening can be a real workout, especially for fair-weather gardeners, so warming up your muscles first with a brisk 5 minute walk and some stretches can do wonders in preventing an injury.

2. Lift and carry things SAFELY!

Think about your back especially when bending over or lifting heavy items, to lift ergonomically, hinge at your hips as if you’re trying to sit on a chair and squat down ensuring your knees don’t go too far over your toes. Be careful not to round your spine, use both hands to lift and try engaging your core muscles. Check out Chiropractor Liz’s handy video here:

When it comes to carrying, make sure you do not overload yourself and ensure you set things down in the same way you picked them up. To be extra safe, invest in a wheelbarrow or wagon.

If you do suffer with back pain, ask your chiropractor for advice on a suitable pelvic support to protect your discs, muscles and ligaments.

3. Bring the plants to you!

Raised beds are an easy way to reduce the amount of bending and kneeling needed when creating the perfect garden. They are a great way to ensure your garden ages alongside you! 

You could also consider making your garden more vertical and add some hanging baskets or a trellis to bring things up to eye level.

4. Comfort is key!

For some, getting down on the ground and getting back up is a task on it’s own – when not working at ground level, look at a using a suitable chair or stool.

If you are on your knees, consider kneeling on pads or an old cushion to give your knees a bit of protection from hard surfaces and rogue stones!

5. Slips, trips and falls…

Avoid trip hazards by keeping your working area fairly tidy. Forks, spades, rakes etc should always be laid with the tines/prongs facing downwards. If you’re keeping them safe in a wheelbarrow, put the tines towards the wheel end away from you. 

If using ladders, don’t over stretch and make sure ladders and steps are standing firm on the ground. 

6. Use equipment safely and as directed

We all know someone who can fashion a tool out of anything, but it really does make it much easier if you use specialist tools. Long handed tools can eliminate much of the bending down to weed and plant. The key is to keep cutting and pruning tools sharp if you can; it makes the job easier as you have to exert less force!

If using power tools wear goggles and ear muffs as appropriate and follow guidance and manuals for equipment. Only use them for short intervals, with lots of breaks in between.

7. It’s not a fashion show!

It’s not just appropriate tools you need, make sure to wear suitable clothing. It is especially important to protect your feet from sharp branches and tools. If you injure your foot enough to make you walk abnormally, you could cause misalignment in your ankles, knees and hips, leading to compensatory back pain

8. There’s no rush!

Whilst we all know the sunshine in Britain needs to be made the most of, the garden isn’t going anywhere. Take your time and work out the best way to carry out tasks safely without putting too much strain on yourself, no awkward twisting, bending or over stretching. 

It’s important to take plenty of rest breaks and make sure you keep hydrated! If you have been in one position for a long time, perhaps do some stretches whilst you enjoy a nice, cold drink.

9. If you do yourself a mischief

If, despite best efforts, you do strain your back here’s what you can do to ease things: 


Gardening is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing hobby. If you can’t do something, do not be scared to ask for help.

Happy gardening; be safe and enjoy the sunshine!

Team Back in Shape.

Elizabeth Garvey
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