A 3-Part Plan for Doing Yard Work with a “Bad Back”

yard workA 1-2-3 Plan for Doing Yard Work with a “Bad Back”

The promise of summer beckons many of us house dwellers to come outdoors and dig around in the warming dirt. For some, this is a highly anticipated time of year, but for those who suffer from back pain, the very thought of bending over or squatting down for long periods makes them reach instinctively for their back muscles to begin rubbing.

I have a tried (by me) and true (for me) plan for gardening which enables me to get my gardening tasks accomplished while protecting my chronic low back (herniated disc) “handicap” at the same time. I am convinced it will help you, too!

Before—Initially, I make sure I have tools that will decrease my need to reach low, lift, and carry. Such items include: a rolling cart (that functions to carry my tools, fertilizers and waste bags which ingeniously covers over to function as a low bench for pruning or planting), a long handled hoe for scratching in fertilizer, and a cushioned pad for when I must kneel.

During—Rather than squat deeply with both knees to reach the ground, I use a half-kneel or full-kneel position (onto the gardening pad) and hinge at my hips to bend forward. This way, I can keep my low back in neutral alignment (not overly bent/flexed). Also, I briefly lift heavy loads by bending my knees only to load or unload my wagon. Then I can pull the heavy items around with moderate effort and minimal strain.

After—Regardless of how you work to minimize it, yard work will require you to bend a good deal. After performing a couple of hours yard work your back can stiffen to the point where you find you are unable to stand up straight. At this point, I call it quits and head indoors for some “disc management” which looks like this:

  • Lie on your stomach for 5 minutes, forehead resting on your stacked hands.
  • Next, prop up on your elbows, chin resting on the heels of your hands (like watching TV on your belly)—3 x 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest periods (on your stomach).
  • Finally, place hands under shoulders in a “push up position”. Slowly push through your arms to raise your trunk off the floor while keeping your pelvis in place*. Repeat 10x.


*Pain should never travel from your back into your buttock or leg with these exercises!

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