Garden maintenance can cause back trouble for those who prioritise their flowers, plants and vegetables over their own health. Avoiding back and joint pain is often the last thing that comes to mind when gardeners reach for their tools and as we approach the big garden ‘spring clean’ which can involve a strenuous overhaul including digging, planting and moving pots etc it is important to take steps to minimise the chance of becoming injured.

“Gardening is a physical activity and like any other exercise requires your muscles to be warmed up before you start, and stretched afterwards. A hot bath afterward can help prevent muscle stiffness the following day.”

Try to pace yourself, for example those who view a dry and sunny weekend as a chance to “blitz” the garden can often end up with an injury. It is safer to chip away at the jobs for one hour a few times a week, if possible, than to think your body will cope with two full days of digging, weeding and heavy lifting. If you have limited time try to vary your activity in the garden, avoiding long stints of digging or bending. Allow your muscles time to rest by limiting each activity to half an hour before having a break or moving to a different task.

Incorrect lifting is the biggest cause of back injuries in the garden – always lift with bent knees and keep your back straight or only very slightly bent, do not stoop. Ask a friend for help moving heavy pots. For other loads, make two to three trips with small amounts rather than risk a back injury that may have you out of action for weeks by lifting too much at once.

If you start feeling pain in your back while gardening, stop, the roses can wait! Pain is your back’s way of saying it is tired and therefore vulnerable to injury.

Should post-gardening pain not reduce in three to four days, seek advice from an osteopath or your GP. If you already know you have a back problem, an osteopathic check up before embarking on the gardening could save you weeks of pain.

6 top tips for gardening without causing injury are as follows:

  1. Gardeners can download the BOA app for iPhone and android and follow its video exercises and stretches to warm up or warm down after gardening and if they need professional help they can use the app to find a local osteopath.
  2. Movement – if you are flexible, through regular yoga, swimming or even walking, your body will be more able to easily move into the many different positions required when gardening
  3. Time – limit each activity to a maximum of 30 minutes each to ensure you are regularly changing position and giving each part of your body a break
  4. Regular maintenance – attending to your garden frequently and in short stints, rather than saving up lots of jobs to do in one day or over one weekend, will reduce the likelihood of injury or strain
  5. Lifting – a straight back and bent knees are imperative for helping to avoid injury, get a friend to help with anything too heavy
  6. Listen to your body – if you feel pain, stop! Seek help from an osteopath or GP if the pain doesn’t subside or you continue to feel uncomfortable