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Gardening can be a great activity to help improve both mental and physical health.

Hot Springs, Ark. – Gardening can be a great activity to help improve both mental and physical health. However, repetitive lifting, twisting and bending, heavy physical work, forceful movements and sitting still for long periods can take a serious toll on your back.  Because these are all common situations when working in the yard, gardeners are at a high risk of developing a low back disorder, or LBD.  Characteristics of LBD include back pain or discomfort – both acute and chronic – that can limit the normal use of the back.  Acute pain is a short-term disorder that can last from a few days to a few weeks.  Chronic pain is typically a disorder that lasts for three months or longer.  The good news is many LBDs are preventable. Evidence has shown you can reduce your risk by practicing stabilizing exercises that target the trunk and core, and by using safe gardening practices.

Preventing injury with core strength

A strong core is key to preventing back pain and injury.  Core strength comes from working muscles that keep you in an upright position.  These include your abdominal, back, hamstring, and hip muscles – all of which help stabilize your spine when you are lifting, bending or changing positions.  When core muscles are weak or tight, it can put extra pressure on the spine.  Strengthening these muscles and increasing flexibility is one of the most effective ways to reduce lower back pain.

Stabilizing, strengthening, and stretching exercises to prevent lower back injury can be found in the Division of Agriculture fact sheet, FSFCS38 “Exercises for Low Back Injury Prevention” and can be downloaded at www.uaex.edu.  Always consult a doctor or physical therapist before starting back exercises, especially if you are experiencing back pain.

Preventing injury by gardening smart

Using safe gardening practices is another way to limit back pain when gardening.  It is important to treat gardening just like any other physical activity – warm up with gentle stretches before you begin and pay attention to your body.  Other tips include:

  • Don’t overdo it.  Try to vary tasks of the day into short bursts of different activities.  Be sure to take breaks and to change position every 15 minutes or so, especially if you are kneeling, squatting or sitting in a bent or twisted position.  Split larger gardening projects into several shorter sessions.
  • Kneel, don’t stand.  When weeding or planting, get down on your knees or kneel on one leg rather than bending at the waist.  Kneelers or benches with wheels make it easier to move along your beds and reduce repeated standing and sitting.  If sore knees prevent you from kneeling, invest in long-handled garden tools or use raised beds to reduce the amount of bending needed.
  • Lift with your legs. When lifting heavy objects, such as planters and bags of fertilizer, keep the item close to your body and bend your knees (squat) so that you can keep your back vertical.  This allows you to lift with the leg muscles rather than straining the back muscles.
  • Plant low maintenance gardens. Reduce the amount of work needed to maintain your garden by planning ahead.  Use a weed membrane and mulch to reduce the amount of weeding and watering needed, plant perennials that will come back year after year, and choose plants that are known to be reliable and problem-free for your area.

According to Consumer Reports, lower back pain is the fifth most common reason that adults seek medical help.  Even if you aren’t currently suffering from back pain, take steps to prevent injury now so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.

 For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, email Jessica at jvincent@uaex.edu, or visit our website at www.uaex.edu.

 EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email jvincent@uaex.edu.

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email abates@uaex.edu.

 4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at lbates@uaex.edu.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal

By Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
jvincent@uaex.edu

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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