Gardening Bad for Backs?

In a recent article by the BBC, the growing popularity of gardening is putting many people at risk of back pain, according to a survey.

A Gallup poll of more than 2,000 adults found that nearly 42% had suffered from back pain.

Of these, nearly half (47%) said their problems were a result of working in the garden.

Read their full story

Our therapist urges people to take care and plan their workload.

Probably nine out of ten “garden back pain” sufferers have only sustained aches and pains as a result of the spinal muscles not being able to cope with the physical activity and have not actually injured themselves at all.

Just like going to the gym, gardening places physical demands on the body and it is normal to experience a few aches and pains, especially if your job involves sitting at desks or driving for long periods.

Ensure you have the flexibility by doing some simple stretches.

Most people have very poor core muscle strength, simple sit ups or Pilates type exercises can help address this.

Don’t try to do too much.  This has not been easy this year, as any dry day has resulted in gardeners grabbing their spades and making the best of what they can, often overdoing it.

Use the correct tools, equipment and techniques and adopt gardening styles that suit you, such as raised beds or mulching.

When pain strikes!

And it will….follow these simple rules before panicking and ringing your doctor.

If your pain gradually built during activity or came on the next day and is mainly in your back with no shooting pain to the legs.  It is likely that you have just overdone it.
This type of pain is worst after sitting/resting but eases slightly once you start moving around. You may find it difficult to straighten up fully or get up from sitting.

  • A good hot bath after your gardening, with some mineral salts will help to reduce muscle tightening known as DOMS. Delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or wheat bag, will help to ease aches and pains.
  • Avoid sitting in soft comfy chairs, but rest by laying on your side or on your back with your knees bent and supported on a pillow.
  • If needed, take normal pain killers such as Paracetamol. You do not need anti inflammatories such as Ibuprofen as there is often no inflammation to treat.
  • Keep mobile and do some simple back stretches.
Your discomfort may take a few days to ease, but you should return to normal quite soon.
If your pain came on suddenly during a bending or lifting task and you cannot stand up straight then it is likely that you have done a little more damage.
You may have felt something “pop” and could have pain into one of your legs.
Sometimes you may not know which way to turn as every movement is excruciating.
There are many structure in the spine which, when damaged can cause this effect, and most of the time, the disc is not involved.
  • You may need some “heavy duty” painkillers or anti-inflammatories from your GP.
  • Do not get into a hot bath as this will worsen any inflammation.
  • The use of ice can be very beneficial (follow instructions on leaflet below).
  • Do not sit! Rest by laying in whichever position is comfortable but still try to keep moving.
  • Avoid Caffeine as found in tea and coffee, as this will act as a muscle stimulant.
  • Try to breathe slowly and deeply.  Pain often causes us to “snatch” at breathing but this starves the muscles of oxygen and makes the pain worse.
  • If you have a TENS machine, this can help to reduce muscle spasm (read the booklet carefully).
After three or four days your symptoms should be easing, if not and/or any shooting pain into the leg is present. Consult your GP or Specialist practitioner.

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