When we are listening to a patient's pain or movement problem, it's important for us, as physios, to understand what that patient enjoys doing and what their hobbies are. Gardening is a popular hobby for many people and it is often said to me with the accompanying question, "should my back hurt after I've been gardening?"
I often reply that gardening can make my back hurt too - but I know how to manage any back pain I feel after gardening and it is therefore often short-lived.
When you break down the moves involved in gardening it can involve a lot of prolonged bending over, twisting, reaching up and working in smaller spaces than we're used to. Gardening often involves lifting heavier objects than you might normally do, and pushing or pulling tasks, such as using wheelbarrows. So you might find later in the day, or the day after, you experience back pain - and it's good to understand how we can help ourselves to ease this pain and any stiffness.
How can I help prevent any back pain developing? Our top-5 tips.
1. Have you ever considered warming-up before going out to do some gardening? Depending on the tasks you have in mind and the length of time you’re going to be working, completing some simple exercises before you start might be one way to help prevent joint aches or back pain developing later on. Try completing these gentle exercises as recommened by the NHS.
2. Try and have the right tools for the job. Longer handled tools (one with extendable or telescopic handles) can be very helpful when trying to reach awkward spaces and can cut down on repetitive bending or over-reaching. Making use of cushioned kneeling pads and sitting stools will also help.
3. Use the hosepipe for watering to cut down on the repeated trips carrying a heavy watering can. Raise the height of some flower beds or choose vegetables that can be grown in containers to reduce the need for weeding and low level ground work.
4. Plan tasks for the day, know your limits and try not to get carried away! Just like someone going out for a run, they will plan their route and have a good idea of the distance or time they can safely cover. Look at what needs to get done and break down the tasks.
5. Take rest breaks and pace your activities. If you start to feel achey take a break and complete some simple back mobility and stretching exercsies.
How can I ease my back pain? Our top-5 tips.
If the time spent in your garden has left you with joint or back pain here are some simple tips you can try to feel better.
1. Gentle exercises, go for a walk or a swim. Don’t be frightened to move your back normally, a gentle walk or swim is likely to help loosen your back and help you feel better.
2. Do some stretches and mobility exercises as suggested above and on the NHS website. Go through some light back stretches and movements to ease any tight soft tissues and stiff joints.
3. Use heat or a cool pack. Depending on your personal preference you could either have a warm bath, apply a wheat bag or cold pack to help those over-worked muscles relax.
4. Come and see one of our physiotherapists who can assess and treat your back pain using our expert skills in managing acute and chronic conditions. We will look at your spine, see how you move, make a diagnosis and then most likely start some hands-on treatment and give you exercise advice.
5. Prevention is better than cure. If you’re a keen gardener are you doing enough to maintain your back strength, mobility and exercise tolerance? You could think about joining an exercise class or one of our specialist Pilates class, we offer physiotherapist led classes with Rowena three days-a-week. If you'd like more information please send a message to us.
You can call our Physical Health clinic team on 01932 645320 to book an appointment or book online www.physicalhealth.uk/book-online.