When Pain Gets in the Way of the Things We Love
Gardening season is here! And if you’re a fellow gardener, you know first hand how exciting this time of year can be. There is no better feeling than getting outside in the sun and soil, mindfully connecting with the earth. And although it’s demanding physical work, you’ll be rewarded in the end with beautiful flowers and the freshest fruits and vegetables!
But despite all of these (and many more) great things about gardening, we can’t help but be a bit afraid of the one negative that comes along with it too – the pain.
Lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, wrist and hand pain, and knee pain are all too common for gardeners this time of year. Because most gardening work – hunching over, heavy lifting, repetitive motions, pulling, pushing, and stooping — can all cause muscle aches, joint pain, and injury if you’re not careful.
So what can we do when pain gets in the way of one of our favorite activities? Thankfully, quite a lot! Even though nothing with pain comes easy, you can take back some control with these 15 gardening pain relief tips.
15 Ways to Reduce Gardening Pain & Injuries
1. Gradually Build Up Time in the Garden
Don’t go 0 to 100. At first, just aim to spend an hour or two in the garden – especially if you haven’t been as active these past winter months. Although you likely can’t wait to dive in full speed, your body will thank you if you don’t! Aim to put in a set amount of time each session, rather than getting a specific task done. Gradually increase the time as you build back your strength.
2. Schedule Gardening When the Soil is Most Moist
Get those pesky dandelions and other weeds out when it’s easiest! So not when it’s too dry or too soaked – but just in that perfect little window of moisture. This a couple hours after a rainfall or watering. Although this will be challenging to plan, it surprisingly helps a lot.
3. Warm Up & Stretch Before
You’re about to do a lot of physical activity, so treat gardening the way you would a workout. Take a 10-minute brisk walk and do a few stretches to warm up your spine and limbs.
4. Set a Timer To Change Positions
It’s extremely easy to lose track of time in the garden! While this is a testament to your true love of gardening, it can be hard on your body. So if you're prone to getting in a flow state, set a timer every 30 minutes for mandatory rest breaks. Or simply change your position or alternate between standing and sitting. This can help prevent one muscle group from taking the brunt of the day’s efforts.
5. Use Long Tools with Ergonomic Grips
Find and invest in tools that do more of the work for you. Long-handled tools are great to prevent bending, while grip tools have good ergonomics (this is especially important for anyone with inflammation in their hands).
6. Try to Swap Hands When Using Tools
Although it might feel strange using your non-dominant side, this can help prevent you from overusing one side of your body.
7. Pad Your Knees
If you need to work from a kneeling position, cushion your knees. Here are a few different options depending on your budget:
- Free = Fold up spare cardboard
- $10 = A flutter board (for swimmers) can also double as a spongy knee pad
- $30 = Borrow knee pads from your kids if they play sports and strap in so you don’t have to carry them around!
- $50 = Buy a dedicated gardening knee pad that also doubles as a bench
8. Try Kneeling On Only One Leg
If kneeling on both knees causes discomfort in your back, try kneeling on one and keeping your other foot on the ground. This will help stabilize your core and minimize back pain.
9. Bend Your Knees, Not Your Waist
Another way to reduce back strain is to bend your knees, not your waist. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it can help take away that pressure the next time you have to pull weeds or plant seeds.
For perfect form you would:
- Bend your knees
- Engage your core
- Keep your back straight
All as you bend down or lift things up.
10. Support Your Lower Back + Keep Your Core Tight
Did you know that you can actually bring some pain therapy with you right into the garden? The Triple Action Back Belt is a wearable device that can keep you supported and feeling good throughout your entire gardening session.
It comes with:
a) A lumbar support cushion. Pump up the belt and feel a nice comfortable pillow ergonomically designed right where you need it. This automatically makes standing or bending more comfortable by supporting the delicate structure of your lower back.
b) 2 adjustable compression bands to help with heavy lifting. Pull these bands to increase tightness around the core. This helps keep things nice and tight and in-place while you move around.
c) Built-in pulse therapy to help relieve pain, increase circulation, and relax muscles. Delivers TENS, EMS, and NMES electrical stimulation therapy right to your lower back nerves and muscles. These three therapies have been used by doctors and physical therapists for years!
11. Don’t Lift When You Can Use Wheels
You don’t get any awards for more effort! So don’t try to lug a whole bag of fertilizer from the garage to the backyard. Instead, make use of your cart or wheelbarrow.
12. Lift With Your Legs, Not Your Back
As you load and lift your wheelbarrow, be sure to squat down rather than bending your back down to lift. That’s because the muscles in your thighs and buttocks are larger and likely stronger.
- Make sure your feet are at least hip width apart
- Bend your knees
- Keep your back straight
- Move your butt back, like your sitting in a chair
13. Invest in Raised Beds or Vertical Gardening
If possible, elevate your flower beds and containers to a comfortable height or use a vertical garden planter. This can make it a lot easier to tend your garden without straining your back or knees!
14. Don’t Overdo It
Take a lesson from the garden and be patient. You don’t have to accomplish everything in one day. Just how “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit”, remember that good things take time. Pace yourself to best remain excited and positive for your next day.
15. Take Care of Yourself After a Long Gardening Session
Lastly, don’t forget to cool down after your gardening exercise and let your body recover. Do some gentle backwards bending and a short walk. Relax later that day with a soothing at-home massage or heat pack. You deserve it!
This past weekend our founder Dr. Michael Ho had gardening pain and truned to the MotionCiser to help with the recovery!
Don’t Give Up!
Living with pain is never easy. There will be some good days and other days that seem impossibly challenging. But with a little extra care and thought, you CAN minimize gardening pain and keep up with the activity you love!
Over the past 35 years helping people relieve pain, we’ve seen millions of people all over the world take control over their pain. With a holistic approach to pain management including proper stretching, nutrition, and drug-free devices, pain does not have to hold you back!
We truly hope these tips help you tackle your gardening to-do list with energy this season. Please support us on our mission to help people live with less pain by sharing these with a friend or family member!