Mind your back in the garden!


At this time of year, chiropractors experience a seasonal influx of patients with back and neck strain caused by over-zealous gardening. At Shrewsbury Chiropractic we have certainly seen a fair few gardening injuries in the past few weeks. The arrival of spring brings out the gardener in all of us, regardless of how fit or physically active we have been during the winter. As a result, we see an increase in gardening-related spinal injury and pain. With this in mind, I thought I could give you some advice on how to reduce the risk of injury.


  1. Clothing. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight or could restrict your movement. Also, when there is still a nip in the air make sure you wear warm clothing and keep your shirt tucked in to prevent the cold stiffening up the back muscles.


  1. Start with the lighter jobs first. Perhaps a bit of tidying up and ‘prep work’ before you go for that elusive tree root or laying that patio. This will reduce the risk of a muscle strain.



  1. Digging. Position the spade’s blade so that it is level. Ideally, it should be parallel to your hip bones (pelvis) in the front, assuming your hip bones are level. Try and relax while you dig and avoid pressurised over-exertion which increases tension and back strain. Take small ‘spadefuls’ or use a small spade. Take regular breaks and continue to do stretching exercises.


  1. Weeding. Use a proper kneeling pad, with side handles to enable you to get up using your legs/knees. Don’t over-reach into your flower beds and use a long-handled, lightweight hoe instead. If kneeling, take regular breaks, get up carefully and keep stretching.


  1. Pruning. If you are pruning make sure you get as close as you can to the branch. Don’t over-reach. Invest in some long-handled secateurs for the plants that are beyond normal reach.


  1. Vary your activity by spending no more than 20-30 minutes on any one garden activity and make sure you take regular breaks. Several different activities are better than slogging all day at one thing. If you dig all day non-stop you might pay for it!


  1. The dreaded patio. If you are laying a patio, keep the slab close to your body and bend those knees. Some of these intensive jobs, like lifting railway sleepers will require two people.


  1. Using ladders. When using a ladder or steps, make sure you are always facing it, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees pointing in the same direction. Rather than leaning or reaching, move the ladder or step regularly to keep up with where you are. Any kind of ladder must be firmly and safely planted in position and, if possible, have someone else there to keep an eye on things.


  1. Off to the DIY centre we go! If you are buying heavy items such as cement or gravel, buy smaller bags rather than one big bag. They are easier and safer to carry. If you do buy heavy items, use a trolley and if on your own, ask an assistant at the store to help you. If buying things like compost, sand or gravel in bulkier amounts, shovel the contents of the large bags straight into smaller containers or wheelbarrow from the back of the car. Don’t lift with your arms straight out, keep the elbows bent and to your side to minimise the stress on your back. If having items delivered, have them unloaded as close to where you need them as possible; this will save the effort of moving them again.
  2. Regular stretching and taking proper advice can prevent the risk of these injuries. BUT if you do hurt yourself, stop doing the activity that’s causing pain! If the pain persists, then seek the advice of your chiropractor, who may recommend heat or ice therapy and discuss with you whether you may require chiropractic treatment.


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