As a garden loving nation with the spring and summer months upon us, the longer daylight hours beckon us out into the garden. Always a great time for people like myself as we are usually very busy trying to deal with the sudden increase in patient numbers due to over exerted joints strained by being in awkward positions for too long.

A tulip from the clinic garden (thanks to the tender care of Neil)

Whilst gardening is a great way to keep physically active, it is worth noting that an estimated 3,900 people each week end up in hospital following accidents or injuries caused in the home or garden.  The main causes of injury are twisting awkwardly, stretching, and overuse of joints and ligaments in the spine causing pain, inflammation, and muscle spasm (rubbing my hands together).

Help is at hand! 

By following a few simple guidelines most injuries can be avoided and your passion can continue painlessly:

  • Try to make sure that any materials are delivered as near to the area where they are to be used to avoid unnecessary lifting.  If you need to move them at any point always ask for assistance.
  • When lifting heavy materials such as paving slabs, keep them close to your body with your knees bent, keeping the legs well parted and the back hollow with your buttocks sticking out.
  • Avoid digging hard soil, it is better to wait until after rain when the soil  is softer
  • Always kneel with one leg rather than two.  This avoids placing strain on the back.  If you have knee problems or find it difficult to stoop, use a gardening cushion or stool and try to keep the back hollow.
  • Vary the tasks.  Change your activity after 20 minutes as different activities will use different muscles.  You can always return to an activity several times until it is complete.
  • When mowing use a backwards and forwards motion and avoid swinging the mower side to side
  • Keep warm – warm muscles work better and injure less!
  • Avoid over reaching when pruning and weeding
  • Do not ignore pain – stop if you begin to ache and if it continues see your chiropractor/osteopath/sports therapist/acupuncturist (we could carry on).
  • Take regular breaks!

Warming Up

It is always important to do some warm up exercises before any exercise.  The best form of warming up is walking. The following gentle exercises to stretch and improve the flexibility in the muscles are a must and should be repeated before and after a period of gardening.

Knee to Chest Stretch

Lie on your back with your legs straight out in front of you.  Bring one knee up to the chest and grasp the back of your thigh.  Pull your knee towards your chest stretching your buttock muscle.  Repeat but this time; pull the knee to the opposite shoulder.  Repeat exercise with the other leg.


Stretching the Thigh



Stretching the Inside of the Thigh

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times.


Back Extension

Lie face down with your hands in the small of your back.  Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor just a couple of centimetres until you can feel your muscles working and hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 5 times.  This exercise helps to strengthen the back muscles.

Cat Stretch

Kneeling on all fours, relax the back and let it go hollow.  Then arch the spine, effectively reversing the curve in the back.  Repeat 3-5 times.

Thigh Strengthening

Resting your back straight against a wall, move your feet out 12 inches.  Squat downwards slowly until your legs are at 45 degrees.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat until your muscles feel worked.

For the Buttocks

With feet a few inches apart, tense the buttocks for 5 seconds and release and repeat 5 times.  This exercise can be done anywhere and should be practiced throughout the day.

Tensing your Stomach Muscles

Without taking a breath in, practice hollowing your stomach towards your spine by tensing your stomach muscles and hold for a least 5 seconds.  Repeat 5 times.  This exercise can be done anywhere and should be practiced throughout the day.  It is an excellent way of supporting your back during exertion.

Remember, prevention is better than cure – a regular exercise routine and stretching allows you to enjoy your activities even more!

Written by Anne French