No matter if you’re just out of high school or enjoying retirement, back pain will affect almost 80% of people over the course of their lives (according to some studies). While some people unfortunately don’t have any say in it simply due to their genes, most instances are very much preventable. Those with physical jobs or hobbies by default have a higher risk of injuring their back.
Anyone involved in landscaping or gardening (whether professionally or as a hobby) will tell you that you need to take extra care of your back to avoid injury. Here are 8 ways to prevent back pain for landscapers and gardeners according to the professionals.
Sleep well. It may seem like an odd tip, but getting a good night’s sleep allows your body to recover and prepare it for the next day. If you are a stomach sleeper, you’re not doing yourself any favors. The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side with a knee between your legs. Making this simple change is a great place to start.
Stretch and warm up. As with almost any physical activity, you lessen your chances of injury when your body is warmed up and your muscles are loose. Since lower back injuries are by far the most common, you want to mainly focus on your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. Below are some great stretches to try that should literally take less than 5 minutes.
Use proper form when lifting. This goes without saying but you should always focus on using your legs to do the bulk of lifting instead of your back. We were taught this in gym class in school but it’s very easy to forget unless you make it a subconscious habit. The more energy that is being used by your back, the higher the chance of injury.
Keep manual lifting to a minimum. Overexertion is one of the main causes of back injuries. No matter how focused someone is on keeping proper form and lifting with their legs, you will get tired and your form will suffer. Make use of wheelbarrows, dollies, and hand trucks whenever possible and don’t be afraid to ask for help with especially heavy objects.
Know your limits. Just because someone else is carrying a 40 pound bag of potting soil or pushing a wheelbarrow filled to the rim with rocks doesn’t mean you should do the same. Lessen the load and make and extra trip or open the bag of soil and shovel some into a wheelbarrow.
Use the right tools. Long handled garden tools should be used as much as possible. While a short handled shovel may give you more control, you will likely be working in an unnatural bent over position with your back taking the full grunt of effort. Long handled tools make you use your legs more. If you are on the taller side, consider making the investment in some telescopic tools which actually adjust to your height.
Switch tasks on a regular basis. While not always possible, different jobs use different muscles. By switching things up, certain muscles get less fatigued which allows you to better keep good form. Similar to going to the gym, you don’t want to simply bench press for dozens of sets. You want to instead give muscles time to recover by going to a different exercise (or job).
Ice, ice, baby. If it’s good enough for professional athletes, it’s good enough for landscapers. Icing reduces inflammation, pain, and helps you recover quicker. Apply ice to sore muscles as soon as possible.
While back injuries or even chronic back pain is never 100% preventable, following these tips will greatly lower your chances of developing issues with your back.