Gardening and Back Pain

Updated: Feb 1


gardening and low back pain

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Many of us love to garden and it is an excellent way to get exercise and stay healthy. However, often with the sustained bending over, crouching, and lifting it can be hard on the low back. Here, I talk about some quick tips to help ease the stress on your spine while keeping up with digging in the dirt and planting your seeds!


gardening and low back pain

Do not sustain a bent over position

When gardening, often you will find yourself bent over digging, weeding, and planting seeds for hours at a time. This is especially true in the beginning in the season.

It is important to take breaks by standing upright and breaking the bent over position.


This will allow your muscles and ligaments small but frequent periods of rest which can go a long way in reducing irritation and soreness that contribute to back pain.


You should be moving out of the bent over position every 20 to 30 minutes, even if just for a few moments at a time.


gardening and back pain

Use a gardening seat

A great tool to reduce the stress of bending forward is the use of a gardening seat or bench. This gets you closer to the ground and although forward bending is still necessary, the degree of squatting and flexion of the spine is reduced. This will help to decrease the overall load to the low back and the pain that can be associated with it.



In purchasing a gardening seat:

· Ensure it can be flipped to be used either as a bench or a kneeler

· Make sure it has handles to push up from

· It should have a padded seat surface for kneeling


Here is a gardening seat that works very well in reducing low back strain and folds up for ease of carrying and storage.

gardening and back pain

Use proper digging techniques

All gardeners spend a fair amount of time digging, especially with a shovel. This is a common source of back pain and stiffness. When digging with a shovel, here are three things to help ease the strain over your spine.


1. When breaking ground, put the shovel square in front of you with your foot on the shovel. Lean your weight into the shovel to drive it into the ground.

2. Bend at your hips and knees as you lift the dirt.

3. Step to the side while moving the dirt, do not twist your spine


gardening and back pain

Bring pots up to your waist level

If you are doing container gardening, do not keep the pots on the ground, rather bring them up to your waist level. Whether you do this by sitting or using a potting table or bench is a matter of personal preference, but either way this will allow you to keep a relatively upright posture while working and decrease pain in the low back.


This will allow your back muscles to work more efficiently and not tire as quickly.

stretch for back pain

Stretch out your hip flexors

Sitting and bending forward causes your hip flexors or muscles in the front of your hips to shorten. This shortening over time can cause them to become shortened which then pulls on the low back.


Doing a simple stretch after you are finished planting for the day can help prevent this shortening (this is actually a great stretch to do after any prolonged sitting).


Place your left knee on a chair, ottoman, or bench. Step forward with your right foot as shown here. Keeping your back straight, bend your right knee to allow your body to move forward until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left thigh/front of hip.


Hold this stretch for 30 to 45 seconds while breathing at a moderate stretch point for 3 repetitions on each leg.


Give these tips a try and they will help to keep you growing fantastic beauty and bounty in your own plot whether it be big or small. Happy growing!


Stay well & Feel Good,





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Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Dr. Kim Day-MacDonald, physical therapist

Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.

My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.

If you would like to know more about how you can help yourself be healthier and live a more active lifestyle, join me here


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If you are having back pain or sciatica and cannot get relief, check out my quick Soothe Your Spine video course on what you should be doing to reduce your pain

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