by Dr. Cathy Malloy & Dr. Rachel Miller
It's summer! Many of you are likely busy in your yards gardening or performing other lawn maintenance including weeding. Repetitive bending and lifting can lead to back pain or stiffness. Here are a few tips to keep you feeling good so you can enjoy your time outside.
When it comes to gardening we want to remember good body mechanics. The closer you are to what you are pulling, the less strain it will be on your back. Instead of standing and leaning over something closer to the ground, try kneeling (either on both knees or one and then switch sides) on pads. Instead of repetitively bending forward (spinal flexion), perform a hip hinge.
To hip hinge, pretend you are holding a light stick against your back. Your head, mid-back, and bottom would all be touching the stick with a little space behind your low back and neck due to the natural curve of the spine. This is called a neutral spine position. When you bend forward, the three points of contact should remain touching the stick. If the bottom part lifts away it is because you are flexing your lumbar spine/low back. If the middle part lifts away, it is because you are overarching your mid-back. Both of these can contribute to tightness in your back muscles which may contribute to stiffness in the spine and possibly back pain when performing this motion repetitively, especially when performing strenuous tasks like pulling and lifting. Hip hinging will optimize your core and glute activation so those muscles can do the work instead of your back. If you are a visual learner, watch this video of a standing hip hinge or this video of a kneeling hip hinge.
Lastly, work smarter not harder. Invest in a hand weeder so it is easier to get the roots, which will also decrease the probability of the weed returning. Also try to pull weeds on days that the soil is soft. If it hasn't rained in a while try watering the soil first to make pulling the weeds easier on your body. Happy gardening!
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