Back pain with lifting or bending?
Is your lower back becoming sore while gardening or lifting? Lower back pain, strength for lifting, do’s and don’ts
Most people garden for enjoyment, seeing the beauty of plants and flowers grow, or to grow their own food. Gardening can also have a positive impact on your health. It improves strength and cardiovascular health, and promotes a sense of relaxation.
It can be quite an intense workout, and we often see people who developed back pain with lifting during gardening. For this reason, it is important to move well and build your strength to reduce back pain. Below are some functional exercises you can complete at home, that mimic the same movements as gardening.
Tip! If you don’t have weights at home, that’s okay! You can use household items such as buckets of water or bags filled with books, cans of food or empty milk bottles refilled with sand.
Start by standing with your feet either side of the weight. As you bend down think about the idea of a door behind you and trying to push it closed with your bum. As you stand up, pretend to squash a grape under the heel of each shoe and squeeze your buttocks together.
This exercise is great for building strength to lift bags of soil or pots, and bending to pull out weeds.
To continue to make the exercise harder, just increase the weight
If it is difficult to reach the ground, you can pop the weight on a stack of books or pavers.
Start by standing with your feet flat on the ground. Push your hips back like you’re going to sit in a chair. Squat down as far as you feel comfortable, keeping your heels on the ground. As you stand up, push your heels into the ground
This exercise is great for building leg strength so you can bend easier, and get up off the ground. It also strengthens the back to help reduce any back pain with lifting.
To make this exercise harder hold a weight on your chest. This will help to build your strength for carrying objects like pots, bags of soil or pavers.
To make this exercise easier try squatting to a chair. Start sitting in a chair. Place feet flat on the ground and stand up, without using momentum or your arms if you can.
Start by standing with one foot half a metre in front of the other and slightly to the side, like you’re standing on railway track. Keep your front heel on the ground and your back foot can go on your toes. Lower yourself straight down (not forward) towards the ground as far as you feel comfortable and back up
This exercise great building your lower limb strength and balance so you pick up pots or bags of soil, or lunge down to pull out weeds. Again helping with any back pain with lifting or bending.
If this is too easy try walking lunges. After you have done 1 rep step forward with the back foot and repeat. These are great for challenging your balance further.
If this is too difficult try a small step up instead. Focus on pushing through the leg that is on the step, and keeping controlled movement as you step down
Stand hinged over at the waist holding a weight in one hand, leaning on a waist high object in the other hand for support. Keeping your back aligned, straighten your arm towards the ground, then pull the weight towards your rib cage pulling your shoulder back, like you’re starting a lawn mower. Lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat.
This exercise is great for building your upper back muscles for pulling out weeds and starting the lawn mower. They are also great for building core stability
If this exercise is getting easier try doing it without leaning on something for support
If this is too hard tie an exercise band around a solid object. A veranda post or clothesline is a good option, and hold the ends in each hand. Stand with your feet slightly apart, keeping a good upright posture. Bend your elbows and pull the band back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Return to the start position and repeat.
Hold a weight in both hands and stand up straight. Lift the weight high above your head to one side, then bring it down across the body, to the opposite hip. Just like you are chopping wood with an axe.
This exercise is great for strengthening the whole body. It helps build strength for rotation movements like pulling out weeds, whipper snipping or starting the lawn mower. It’s also great for building overhead strength to help when you need to keep your arms up high to trim those hard to reach places.
As this gets easier, try taking the weight lower down to your knee or ankle
If this feels a little too hard, try lifting the weight just as high as your shoulder
Aim to complete 2-3 sets of 10, depending on what you can manage, 3 times per week. Is you get stronger try out the progressions, or gradually increase the weight you are using.
Let’s keep you gardening and reduce your back pain with lifting and bending activities!
Written by Courtney Wharton, Accredited Exercise Physiologist. Courtney works at myPhysioSA Payneham and Mount Barker helping people to better manage back pain. Courtney also consults at the International Spine Centre in Adelaide.