By Dr. Vic Weatherall
According to Dr. Peter Skew of the charity Back Care, "Gardening is one of the best forms of exercise any of us can take, it is good for flexibility, strength, and stamina." However, you need to prepare properly to prevent injuries. Digging, lifting, raking, shifting, and planting can all cause significant strain to the muscles and the back.
A Gallup poll of more than 2,000 British adults found that nearly 42% had suffered from back pain. Of these, nearly half (47%) said their problems were caused by gardening. Among the 35-plus age group, the proportion was even higher at 56%. Gardening can cause muscle strains, ligament sprains, and back muscle spasms.
"Back injuries are frequently preventable" says Dr. Thomas Simmer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He adds, "Too often gardeners jump right into yard work in the spring without taking precautions."
Dr. Stan Gorchynski, former President of the Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA), said that "Eight out of every ten Canadians can expect to suffer from back pain at some time during their lives. During the spring gardening season, however, we generally see an increase in the number of visits to chiropractors due to muscle strains, sore joints, and back pain." He added, "The warmer weather really inspires people to get out in the yard, but for many people a winter of inactivity makes them prone to back and muscle injuries."
To have a happy and healthy gardening season, follow the healthy gardening "do's and don'ts" listed below.
For chronic back pain sufferers, raised garden beds can be very helpful. A raised bed height of 2-3 feet will allow you to sit while gardening. Also consider using ground cover plants to reduce the need for continuous weeding.