Gardening season has begun and many people are excited to work some magic in their yards. Gardening is a great outdoor activity which can be very fulfilling not just on your eyes, but also your body! Just be sure to embrace some simple tips and not let back pain get in the way of your vision for a beautiful landscape. As we always love to provide, here are some practical tips of how to take care of your back while taking care of your garden.

Pace yourself
While there is always lots to do, rushing can often lead to unnecessary strain or injury. Avoid over-exerting your body by doing too much, too quickly. Try to plan it out by giving yourself a reasonable task list that may spread the gardening project over multiple days of work.  Practical Tip: Lifting bags of soil is a common cause of injury as this often happens before our bodies have a chance to warm up and we often think our bodies are stronger than they actually are. We recommend only lifting one bag at a time or using a wheelbarrow to transport them across long distances.

Warm up
Before you begin any physical activity, it is very important to warm up your body. Take a walk around the block, move around or even march on the spot for 10 to 15 minutes. This warm-up time should also include simple stretches for your neck, arms, back and legs. Make sure your body feels relaxed and warm before starting which will allow you to move around easier and with greater range.

The right moves
Use the right moves to lighten the load on your back. Kneel (kneeling pads are great!) or sit on a stool. Avoid maintaining your back in a bent position for a prolonged period of time as that creates increased pressure in specific areas, leading to strain and injury. Change your position often and take breaks frequently. Practical Tip: Alternate between light and heavy chores which utilize different body parts to help avoid straining a single part of your body.

Lift properly
Make sure to bend with your knees and not with your back. Avoid twisting and turning while carrying a heavy load and grab a friend if what you’re lifting is too heavy for one person.

Take frequent breaks
Take frequent breaks especially when working while it’s hot outside. Stay hydrated to prevent sun stroke and to give your muscles the flow of electrolytes they need to function. Keep your muscles and joints relaxed and loose.

Use the right tools
As with almost any hobby, the sky is the limit when it comes to how much you can spend on tools of the trade. Do your best to not undervalue the small additional cost of buying proper tools. Hand tools with formed grips, portable stools, wheelbarrows, knee pads and other ergonomically designed tools can pay for themselves easily if they prevent you from missing a day at work due to an injury.

Finish with a stretch
When finishing up a long session in the yard, avoid the temptation to immediately lie down on the couch, and first do some stretches for the whole body. Stretches should be gentle and should not cause pain. By holding stretches even just 15 seconds for each muscle group, you can dramatically reduce soreness from building up the following day. Drink lots of water to flush out lactic acid and give yourself a pat on the back! Good job!