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Gardening Without Knee or Back Pain: 4 Tips for Pain-Free Yardwork

Hey there, fellow gardeners!

A little-known fact about me is that I’m an avid gardener. This relaxing hobby I owe to my grandma that spent countless hours with my brothers and I teaching us all the ins and outs of running a garden. As we gear up for the joys of spring and summer gardening, it's essential to ensure we're nurturing not only our plants but also our bodies. I'm sure many of us have experienced those pesky knee and back pains that can put a damper on our gardening endeavors. But fear not! With a few simple tips and tricks, we can enjoy our time in the garden without the discomfort. Let's dive into why these pains occur and how we can prevent them.

woman hunched over gardening

Why Do Gardeners Suffer from Knee and Back Pain?

Before we delve into the solutions, let's understand why gardeners often find themselves grappling with knee and back pain. Gardening involves a lot of bending, kneeling, lifting, and twisting, all of which can strain our muscles and joints if not done correctly. Here are a few common reasons why you might feel pain after gardening:

  1. Poor Posture: Incorrect posture while gardening, such as hunching over or twisting excessively, can put undue stress on the spine and knees.

  2. Overuse of Joints: Repetitive movements, like kneeling or squatting for extended periods, can overwork the joints, leading to inflammation and pain.

  3. Lifting Heavy Objects Incorrectly: Whether it's a bag of soil or a potted plant, lifting heavy objects without proper technique can strain the back muscles.

  4. Ignoring Early Signs of Strain: Many of us are guilty of pushing through the pain while gardening, ignoring the early warning signs of strain or discomfort, which can exacerbate the issue.

Now that we know why these pains occur, let's explore some tips to ensure a pain-free gardening experience.

4 Tips for Pain-Free Gardening:

  1. Warm Up and Stretch: Just like any other physical activity, gardening requires a proper warm-up. Before you start digging in the dirt, take a few minutes to stretch your muscles, focusing on your back, knees, and shoulders. Gentle stretches can help improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.

  2. Use Proper Tools and Techniques: Invest in ergonomic gardening tools designed to reduce strain on your body. Long-handled tools can help minimize bending, while kneeling pads or a garden stool can provide support for your knees and back. When lifting heavy objects, remember to bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back.

  3. Take Breaks and Listen to Your Body: Don't push yourself to the point of exhaustion. Take regular breaks to rest and hydrate, especially on hot days. Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or fatigue, and don't hesitate to switch tasks or ask for help if needed.

  4. Implement Raised Beds and Containers: Consider creating raised beds or using containers for your garden. Raised beds reduce the need for bending and kneeling, making it easier on your joints. Plus, they can add visual interest to your garden while minimizing maintenance.

By incorporating these tips into your gardening routine, you can enjoy a pain-free and fulfilling experience in your garden this spring and summer. Remember, taking care of your body is just as important as tending to your plants. Happy gardening!

Stay green and serene,



Kelly Vanhove, PT, DPT, FAFS, ATC is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, and Director of the Seattle Rehab United Clinic. With over 14 years of experience in outpatient physical therapy as well as being a Fellow of Applied Functional Science, he possesses valuable knowledge of all functional techniques of assessment, rehabilitation, training and conditioning, performance, and prevention.

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