Advice On Gardening With a Bad Back and Avoiding Back PainĀ 

  • Author: Daniel Patrick
  • Published: August 29, 2022

Gardening with back pain can be an unpleasant experience. It can be a downright awful one if the problem is bad enough. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to garden effectively while minimizing the pain and preventing your back problems from worsening.

While it might be too late for some of you reading this, there are also precautions you can take to avoid getting a bad back from gardening in the first place. I strongly recommend you take these precautions even if you’re young and healthy right now. If you garden regularly and aren’t careful, you WILL suffer back problems eventually.

Here’s my best advice for gardening with a bad back and preventing back pain.

Always Stretch Before Working in the Garden

Warming up is an excellent defense against existing back pain and your best chance of preventing back problems further down the road. I strongly recommend that you ALWAYS stretch before gardening.

Just a few minutes with the right exercises will warm up all your muscles and prepare them for active work. You’ll also increase blood flow to targeted areas, helping to reduce inflammation and pain.

I recommend doing full-body warmups. Your back might be your primary concern, but it’s also good to stretch other parts of your body such as your hips, arms, and shoulders.

Here’s a relatively easy full-body stretching routine that takes just five minutes.

There are also some additional exercises for back pain specifically that I recommend.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

A knee-to-chest stretch is a great exercise to help gardeners with a bad back. You’re likely to feel relief from any back pain almost instantly and you should see a positive long-term effect on your body. You’ll need to lie down for this one.

Sitting Pelvic Tilt

Another simple exercise that can do miracles for you is the sitting pelvic tilt. It will warm up your back effectively, strengthen your muscles, and is especially good for relieving pain in the lower back.

Even people with limited mobility can perform this one, and here’s the proper way to do it.

Child’s Pose

You might be familiar with this one if you have any yoga experience. The child’s pose is good for relaxing as well as stretching. It’s great for gardeners with back pain and is another excellent choice for those with mobility issues.

There’s not a lot of effort needed for the child’s pose, either. The following video will teach you how to perform it.

More Stretching Exercises for Your Back

The exercises mentioned so far are among the best you can do. However, there are also plenty of other options for stretching your back. The following guide has some helpful advice for finding a solution that works for you.

Once you’ve settled on some stretching exercises, ensure you do them at the start of every gardening session. I recommend incorporating them into a daily routine for the best effect, even when you’re not gardening. Stretching every day can do wonders for your body in the long run.

Use Proper Techniques When Lifting

I never knew about proper lifting techniques when I was younger. I probably would have ignored them even if I did. Like many people, I was guilty of underestimating the importance of lifting correctly. 

Regular lifting and lifting heavy items are among the most common causes of back injuries. Both are frequently required when gardening, so proper lifting is vital in helping to avoid future problems. 

The following video shows the correct techniques to use.

The key takeaways are that you should bend at your knees and use your leg muscles to lift. Keeping objects close to your body and avoiding bending at the waist put less pressure on your back.

Listen to Your Body

My first couple of tips for gardening with back pain focused on your body. There are also some mental issues to consider, notably that you must learn to listen to what your body is telling you. If you consistently ignore signals from your body, you are bound to suffer at some point. 

It’s not uncommon to want to finish a set of tasks before you stop a gardening session. While it’s good to set yourself targets and try to reach them, looking after yourself is more important. You’ll end up being more productive in the long run.

Most gardening tasks can wait another day or two if necessary. There’s no need to kill yourself to cross them off the list. It’s always best to stop when you start to tire or feel any aches and pains, as that’s when you’re at the most significant risk of injury.

Take Frequent Breaks

One of the easiest ways to prevent putting too much pressure on your back is to take frequent breaks. They don’t have to be long ones; you just want enough time to give your body a bit of rest.

The optimal intervals between breaks depend on your age, overall condition, and what you’re doing. The same applies to how long your breaks should be. I like to take frequent short breaks if I’m doing something strenuous and longer breaks less often when I’m doing light work. The same might work for you, but you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

Top Tip: When you take longer breaks, I recommend that you do some gentle stretching before you start gardening again.

Wear Suitable Clothing and Footwear

You should always wear the right clothes and footwear when working outside. This is especially important for gardeners with existing back pain, as inappropriate clothing can make the problem a lot worse.

There are a few things to bear in mind when choosing what to wear for gardening.

  • Loose clothing that allows you to move with ease is ideal.
  • You don’t want to be too hot or too cold, so wear something appropriate for the weather.
  • Something waterproof is essential if you’re working in the rain.
  • Your shoes or boots should provide strong support and grip. Slipping around all the time will increase your chances of getting injured.
  • Safety boots are a sensible option if you’re moving anything heavy around.

Our section on gardening products and supplies includes advice and recommendations for clothing and footwear.

Use Appropriate Tools and Accessories

There are all sorts of tools and accessories you’ll use when gardening. Some of them can put a lot of extra strain on your back, especially if you don’t use them correctly.

An essential piece of advice here is to keep your back as straight as possible when using gardening tools. Too much bending over during tasks such as digging can put enormous pressure on your back and lead to pain, inflammation, and even severe injuries.

Using the right tool for the tasks at hand is also imperative. For example, there are types of shovels that are better for heavy digging than others due to their shape. The right tools typically require less energy and therefore reduce the strain on your back.

Some garden tools and accessories are specifically for protecting your body. Here are some examples.

  • Kneelers and knee pads: A kneeler can be very helpful if you want to avoid bending as much as possible. It allows you to get down on your knees comfortably and complete the job at hand. Knee pads have a similar function.
  • Wheelbarrows: Wheelbarrows are great for moving heavy objects without having to strain yourself too much.
  • Garden gloves: A good pair of gardening gloves will protect you from scratches and blisters and also improve your grip to make lifting easier.
  • Waist aprons and tool belts: A waist apron or tool belt allows you to keep things within easy reach instead of leaving them on the ground and bending over repeatedly when you need them.
  • Garden scooters: One of these will make it easier to move around your garden and reduce the need for twisting your body. 

Several other gardening tools and accessories make gardening with back pain easier and help prevent back problems. Check out the following for some more recommendations.

Create a Smart Garden Layout

Taking a strategic approach to your garden design can help to reduce and prevent back pain. An intelligent design can keep the most demanding chores to a minimum and thus limit the strain on your body.

For example, you can avoid wide flowerbeds that require a lot of bending over to care for. You can grow lots of plants in containers and make sure they are easy to reach.

There are many other things you can do when planning your garden. If you use your head, you won’t have to use your back so much!

Final Words

I hope my advice will help you, whether you already have a bad back or are looking to avoid getting one. I can assure you it’s solid advice as I’ve been following my own tips for years. I can’t even imagine starting my day without doing my stretching exercises!

Although I’ve managed to garden without experiencing back problems, I have plenty of friends who suffer from back pain. I know how debilitating it can be, so I urge you to take good care of your body.

Gardening is supposed to be relaxing, not damaging to your health, so make sure you take the necessary precautions. And if you ever reach the point where you can’t look after your garden effectively any longer, remember that you can always concentrate on growing houseplants indoors!