Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

Always Keep Your Back Straight!
by Joshua Siskin
September 21, 2008

When working in the garden, putting stress on your back is an all too common occurrence.

Yet by adhering to one cardinal rule, garden back strain can be completely avoided.

The single rule that needs to be followed to avoid back strain is simply this: Always Keep Your Back Straight. If you can remember never to bend at the waist, no matter what garden task is at hand, your back will be safe.

What this means, in fact, is that planting of seeds, ground covers, and annual flowers, as well as vegetable and strawberry harvesting and all weed pulling, should be done on your knees. Otherwise, back strain is inevitable. Knee pads are part of every serious gardener's wardrobe.

Hoeing, raking, and shoveling should also be done with a straight back. What this means is that whatever is being hoed, raked, or shoveled should be close to the trunk of your body. When you stretch out to rake leaves or put your shovel into a pile of mulch that is more than a few inches away from your center of gravity, you are putting stress on your back. When you put your shovel into the ground to dig a hole, you should be in an uncompromisingly vertical position; your foot should go straight down on the back of the shovel blade.

Always lift with a straight back. If the object to be moved is heavy, ask for assistance. Before lifting, bring the object as close as possible and tighten your stomach muscles without holding your breath. Lift with your legs.

When putting objects or shoveling into a wheelbarrow, avoiding bending down. Squat and bend your knees but not your back. Put the wheelbarrow as close as possible to whatever is being lifted or shoveled into it. Distribute loads evenly in the wheelbarrow bed.

When pushing a wheelbarrow or lawnmower, do so with a straight back and arms close to your sides.

Joshua is the owner of a gardening company and writes articles on horticultural subjects. 


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