July 2022: On the Treatment Table

June 26 2022

Don’t break your back in the garden

It’s that time of year again when we Brits unleash our green fingers and get into the garden.

Suddenly the sun comes out and we rush outside to get those jobs done. Maybe it's tidying the patio, mowing the lawn, tending the flowerbeds or ‘digging for victory’ at your allotment. All these activities break the classic rules of spinal biomechanics, increasing the amount of bending, twisting, and lifting that we do. It’s no surprise that gardening is one of our common activities which stresses and strains our bodies and can lead to injuries. Prevention is always better than cure so here are some tips which I hope you will find helpful to garden more safely and reduce the risk of injury:

Preparation is often the key, so it helps to wear clothes that are not too tight as they could constrict your movement. We now know that the most important way to prevent injury is to warm up. This isn’t really a case of increasing temperature, its more about coordination and patterns of movement.

Classic PE style static stretching doesn’t do a very good job in preventing injury, its better to do a dynamic warm up using walking and then practicing movements like those you’ll be doing in the garden. Start off with lighter jobs to lessen the chance of muscle strain. Good posture is important too to protect your back, so keep your back relatively straight, bending from the hips and knees and engage your core abdominal and intrinsic spinal muscles. I always recommend regularly changing position as well as taking a break every 30-40 minutes if possible.

It helps to keep your shoulders, hips and knees pointing in the same direction, rather than twisting or over-reaching, this is important when strimming or cutting grass. Get as close as possible to the things you are pruning and avoid overstretching. Long handled secateurs can be a wise investment to reach plants and bushes that are beyond normal reach.

The design of your garden can help too. Raised beds look attractive and are a practical way to save your back. Pot plants can be easier to maintain, as long as you’re not moving them too much! If you are kneeling it is important to protect your knees with a pad and don’t overbend those knees past 90 degrees.

If you are planning a trip to the local DIY store to buy heavy items such as cement or gravel, buy smaller bags rather than one big bag as they are easier and safer to carry. Don’t lift with your arms straight out, keep the elbows bent and keep the weight closer to your body. A specialist garden trolley or wheelbarrow are useful to move heavy materials around, especially if you have lots of patio pots to move around as well.

Hopefully we’ll be enjoying our gardens and some fine weather this summer. If you do have a mishap, then the team at Action Potential will be happy to help ease those aches and pains. You can call us on 0117 961 2060, find us on facebook or email enquiries@actionpotential.org.uk to book.

We provide chiropractic, physiotherapy, sports massage and foot health treatments and Pilates at Kingswood Health Centre and Hengrove Park Leisure Centre.