Keep Your Back Healthy When Gardening

by Dr. Chad Laurence

Muscle soreness, sprains, sciatica, stiffness, and numbness in the hands and legs. Sound familiar? If so, your body may be paying the price for not being prepared to “dig in” to warm-weather chores, including mowing lawns, mulching, planting seeds and shrubs, pulling weeds, and landscaping. The good news is that all these problems can be avoided.

A study of 500 chiropractors found that a whopping 88% of these doctors reported yard work and gardening to be the most common sources of back and neck pain during warmer months. Golf ranked second at 31%. If a lower-back disc herniates or protrudes, it can put pressure on nerves, affecting your back and legs. Proper spinal structure and corrective chiropractic are necessary to insure healthy discs.

Here are some tips to help you get ready to work in the garden:

• Stretch hamstrings, thighs, calves, groin, and gluteus (buttock) muscles before you begin. To lower your risk of injury further, stretch shoulders and wrists as well.

• Squat: When lifting, contract your abdominals, keep your back straight, and bend at your knees. Your navel should face the object that you are lifting. Keep anything that you are lifting close to your navel and stand tall. Avoid leaning forward or twisting the spine while carrying any load.

• Contract your lower abdominal muscles, located between your belly button and bladder, to protect the lower back while performing rigorous activities.

• Hydrate and use sunscreen.

• Constantly stretch and take frequent breaks.

• Over the course of 20 minutes, try to alternate between at least three different tasks and/or activities. Repeat if necessary.

When you’re finished gardening for the day, stretch again, and hydrate. Drinking water or a beverage with minerals will do the trick. If at any time you experience pain, numbness, weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath, consult a doctor.

Dr. Chad Laurence can be reached at or

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