“Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.” (Sigmund Freud) Gardening has multiple physical and mental health benefits. Specifically, it can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. I like gardening because it helps to 1) relax me 2) improve my balance, 3) prevent trips and falls.  A common complaint after gardening is a sore lower back and other minor injuries to the body. Gardening involves a lot of bending over, twisting and maneuvering in small awkward places and this may lead to aches and pains. I like to follow these tips from a physiotherapist to reduce my risk of injury while I continue to enjoy the pleasures of gardening:

  • Warm up: bending, digging, pulling and lifting require our muscles to be in full working order. The warmer the muscles the less likely you are to injure yourself.
  • Match your Tools to your Job: When kneeling, use short handled lightweight tools. Long handled tools are recommended for reaching higher up branches instead of ladders. Keep your tools sharp and free from rust to make the job more efficient.
  • Use a Knee Pad: Using a knee pad will provide cushion for your knees and this will make your gardening task more comfortable. Using a knee pad with a frame will help you get up and down while protecting strain on your back.

It is important to stop gardening immediately if your lower back pain becomes severe. You do not want to risk further damage by continuing.  If you do experience back pain, rest, use hot or cold compresses and anti-inflammatory painkillers. If the pain does not improve, seek advice from a doctor or physiotherapist.

Enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening and keep your body safe from injury. In the immortal words of Alfred Austin, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”

By Diane Alavie, BSc.Phm.