When people think of strenuous physical activity, they likely think of hitting the gym, running a few miles, playing a pickup game of their favorite sport. They likely don’t think of landscaping, planting, weeding, and all other parts of the gardening world. And although gardening may be no half marathon or championship game, it can certainly take a physical toll on your body – especially if you don’t know what measures to take to prevent an injury. 

Brett Peters, one of the physical therapists with ATI Physical Therapy, warned that individuals must know how to prevent injuries before spending long hours in their gardens.

“The most important thing is to do something to warm-up before heading to the garden,” Peters said. “It can just be walking for five or ten minutes, just something to get your muscles loose first.”

In addition, Peters advised individuals to regularly switch up their positions while gardening.

“No matter what you’re doing, it’s important not to stay in a single position too long,” Peters said. “Whether it’s standing up straight or bending down, gardeners need to switch their positions so they don’t negatively affect their back and posture.”

He said that the most common gardening injuries are back injuries, including herniated or bulging discs.  Although treatment for spine injuries varies from patient to patient, it’s important to consult a medical professional whenever you experience an injury. 

“If you feel back pain, your first step is to get to a doctor as soon as possible,” Peters said. “Your next step is to get to a physical therapist early to help prevent your injury from becoming chronic.”

To help ward off injuries, the following stretches can help loosen your muscles and prepare you for the rigors (yes, rigors!) of gardening. Peters suggested the following stretches…

- Lumbar truck rotation: Lie on your back with your knees bent and up in the air. Rock knees from side to side.

- Single knee to chest: While still lying on your back, bring right knee up to your chest and then lower. Repeat with left knee.

Despite regular stretching, injuries can still occur. If you experience pain in your back (or anywhere else) during gardening, be sure to consult a physician and get it checked out.