A word of advice for gardeners: Think of yard work as a sport. All the bending, stooping , digging, and pulling you do to care for your flowers, plants, and lawn can be tough on your body. This is especially true if your muscles and joints are not prepared for the work.You need to condition your body to do gardening and yard work just as an athlete conditions his or her body to participate in a sport.
To make gardening and yard work as enjoyable as possible, warm up before doing extended chores. When you are finished with the chores, do cool down exercises. Stretching the major muscles of the back, legs, shoulders and arms can help in avoiding injuries.
Your lower back is going to bare a lot of the stress and strain of lifting and bending associated with gardening and yard work. Lifting and bending properly is essential to avoiding injury to the lower back. It is most important to remember to bend at the knees and not at the waist when picking things up. This is most important when bending over repetitiously. The first 99 times you bend over will be fine. The 100th time you bend over to pick up something small or light is when you will hurt your back. When bending over or picking anything up, no matter how light or heavy it may be, the proper way to do it is to bend with the knees keeping the back straight. Hold the weight close to the body without extending with the weight in your arms. You also need to turn your whole body when moving it, not just rotating from the waist. Lifting any weight with your arms out extended increases the stress 10 fold on the lower back. Your arms act as long levers increasing the load on the lower back. Keeping any weight close to the body decreases the load on the back.
Digging can also be very stressful on the lower back, especially in northern NJ where you hit a lot of rocks. Try to keep the knees bent and do the digging slowly. Soil that is damp will be easier to dig into than soil that is dry. Most people do not do this type of work frequently and the body is not conditioned for this type of work. Take frequent breaks to give your back, legs and arms a rest and allow them to recover.
If working in the garden, kneeling on a soft foam pad with both knees or sitting on a low stool can be very helpful to avoid stress on the lower back. Avoid over extending or over reaching in any position because this is how muscles get pulled.
With using the lawnmower, remember to bend the knees when starting the lawnmower and also with removing the grass catcher. Keep in mind that the grass catcher will get significantly heavier once it is filled up with grass.
With moving heavy items such as mulch or bags of fertilizer, try to use a wheelbarrel or wagon to move the items rather than lifting and carrying them in your arms or on your shoulder.
You ideally want to think about what you are lifting or moving before you do it. Taking that extra few seconds to think about moving something the right way could make all the difference in the world in preventing a major ache or pain. It is not unusual to have a little bit of musclular soreness after doing yard work. Normal muscular soreness should get better by itself in a short period of time. If pain or problems persist and don't get better, professional care may be needed.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a doctor.