Spring Is Springing, And That Means… Back Pain?

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Gardening can contribute to back pain if you're unprepared. A few simple techniques can reduce your risk of injuring yourself.

Gardening is a surprisingly common cause of back pain, and now that the sun is out, it's important to know how to work in your yard without hurting yourself.

Leigh Allen, physical therapist at San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy suggests the following tips for beautifying your garden without hurting your body.

Warm Up: You wouldn't play sports or work out without warming up, so it makes sense to warm up before doing something as physical as gardening. A quick walk and some gentle stretching can work wonders before hunkering down to the flower bed.

Change Position Frequently: Prolonged static positions can be damaging. When doing a lengthy task, change positions frequently. If you're working close to the ground, as in weeding, you can sit, kneel, half-kneel, and get on all fours. Vary your position to give your back a break.

Shift Tasks or Take Breaks: Rotate through your tasks so you're not doing any one thing for too long. Weed for 10 minutes then switch to raking, then to clipping, then back to weeding, etc. If you've only got one job to do, then just make sure you take a stretch break and/or change position every 10-15 minutes.

Use Good Body Mechanics: Always make sure to avoid bending in your back, especially when lifting. Keep your back straight, tighten your abdominal muscles, and bend at the hips and knees. Don't lift too much at once. Break large loads up into several smaller loads. Use a smaller spade when digging. And move your feet to avoid unnecessary twisting in your back.

Use Ergonomic Tools: Lighter-weight tools ease the load on your back, and tools that allow you to stand instead of bend over are back savers as well. A quick search can find websites that sell ergonomic gardening tools, like Gardeners.com.

"If you're worried about your mechanics or your back when getting back out into your garden," says Allen, "contact your physical therapist. They can review body mechanics with you and even teach you exercises specifically designed for you and the tasks you want to do."

For information on physical therapy and gardening contact Leigh Allen or visit San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy at http://www.SFPhysicalTherapy.com.

About San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy:
San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy was started in 2001 and has since grown to 6 locations in San Francisco, Sunnyvale and San Mateo. Our mission is "To advance the physical well-being of humanity".

Jerry Durham, Director of Public Relations
San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy


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