Gardening Ergonomics: Pull Those Weeds Without Pulling Your Back Out

Now that Spring is here, many of my Monday aquatic therapy clients come to me complaining of aches and pains from a weekend of gardening. I’ve found that gardeners are like artists in that they become so focused on their work that they ignore their bodies and pay for it later.

So for all of you out there who enjoy making your gardens bloom and grow, here are some tips for keeping your aches and pains in tow:

Warm Up

Most gardeners, even if they are regular exercisers, don’t warm up before pulling weeds or tilling their soil. This is a big mistake in that gardening is physically demanding and utilizes many muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments and challenges balance and coordination. Basic yoga sun salutations make a perfect dynamic warmup, but you can also walk around your yard briskly, swinging your arms and perhaps performing some gentle squats and overhead stretches.

Take Regular Breaks

Avoid maintaining the same body position for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Transition to a different task and above all, take regular breaks to stretch your body and walk around.  Gardening tends to put the spine in a flexed position, so after you’ve been rounding forward planting or weeding, stand up and do a few spinal extensions (hands on your hips, eyes gazing upward, slowly and gently lean backwards).

Pad Your Knees

Consider investing in a good pair of kneepads “kneeling pad” or use a pool noodle to cushion your knee joints. However, even with good padding for your knees, I don’t recommend your remain in a kneeling position for more than a 10-15 minutes at a time.

Don’t Over Do It

The first time out in the garden is like shoveling snow after the first snowfall – so ease your way into it and don’t overdo it. You don’t have to tackle all of the weeding and planting in one day or even one weekend – so pace yourself!

Stretch and Shower Afterwards

After you tend to your garden, tend to your body. Stretch (sun salutations work well after gardening, too), take a hot shower and use Traumeel on any aches or pains.

Be Well,


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