Gardening this long weekend? Here are some tips to keep your back happy and healthy:
1. KEEP YOUR SPINE NEUTRAL AND LIFT WITH YOUR HIPS
Keep the curve in your low back when lowering yourself to lift items and during the lift. Don’t bend through your back and lift with your back muscles. Your back muscles are there to stabilize your spine, not to generate force. Engage your core by tightening your stomach muscles. Hinge at your hips and let your knees bend a little. Lift by squeezing your buttocks together and bringing your pelvis forward. Here’s a great tutorial of Dr. Stuart McGill coaching trainer Aaron Lipsey through the basics of a dead lift.
2. CARRY THE LOAD CLOSE TO YOUR BODY, PUT IT DOWN PROPERLY
Once you have picked up what it is you want to carry, keep the load close to your body. Wear old clothes so that you don’t have to worry about keeping clean. When it comes time to put down the load, follow the steps above – keep your back straight, engage your core, hinge at the hips, and let the knees bend. Remember, you’ve only done half the work when you’ve picked up the weight. The other half is putting it down.
3. GET DOWN TO WORK
Lower yourself to your work. Don’t bend over at the waist to work at the ground. Take a kneeling or half kneeling position. Use knee pads to make the work more comfortable.
4. KEEP YOUR NOSE BETWEEN YOUR TOES
Twisting the spine under load (when shoveling, for example) is a great way to hurt your back. First, lift properly (see number 1), then turn your body at your hips, not your spine. To do this, try this practice drill: Stand straight and put your hands at the sides of your thighs. Now, keeping your arms straight, and without turning your spine, turn to one side. You won’t go very far. If you hinge a little at your hips and bend your knees a tiny bit, you will be able to go a little further. If you have to turn further than that, turn your whole body, including your feet.
5. WARM UP
Don’t go into the hardest, heaviest tasks right away. Do a few light jobs first, and/or take a few minutes to warm up. A little light stretching, jumping jacks, or some jogging in place will help to warm up your body and will let your muscles know it’s time to work.
6. CHANGE IT UP
Change your activities throughout the day. Try not to spend too much time doing the same thing. Break up your tasks so that you have an opportunity to vary your position and movements.
7. While not back specific… Drink lots of water and wear sunscreen!