The long awaited warmer weather of spring and summer has finally arrived and yard and garden work can be just what the body and soul needs- that is if we don’t over do it. Unfortunately many of us will do just that and leave ourselves left with low back pain that just won’t quit.


The sad part, we could enjoy a burst of outdoor activity without injuring our backs if we had just taken the time to stretch, strengthen, lift, bend, reach, and stoop correctly. Dr. David Imrie, author of “GOODBYE BACKACHE” reminds us that “back exercises are boring but, then, so is lying in bed with a backache.”


Here are some back safety tips to remember as you tackle spring yard and garden work.


Use the pelvic tilt intermittently throughout your daily activities. Stand with your back to the wall, heels a few inches from the wall. Pull in your stomach muscles slightly; soften the knees and press the low back, shoulders and head against the wall and look straight ahead. Then allow a small gap to occur behind the low back, keeping the abdominal muscles pulled in and up. Do these stretches several times throughout your day, it stretches and allows for relaxation while you’re working.


Learn to sit with your knees even with, or higher than your hips with a slight low back curve- chin in, ribs up, shoulders centered, and no slouching. Use a chair that has a firm seat and supports the low back, no arm rests. Sit close to your work so you so you are not leaning in to it.  Some experts agree that crossing the legs is okay as it puts you in a natural pelvic tilt. Do what feels comfortable but avoid long periods of leg crossing. When driving, sit close enough to the wheel that you are not reaching and keep the hands low on the wheel to rest the arms and upper back.


Sleep or lie in a position that maintains the natural curve of the spine. Use a firm mattress. Too firm a mattress will not allow the heavier parts of your body to sink in causing an unnatural curvature. Stomach sleeping distorts the natural curve.


When reaching overhead use both hands rather than one. If you’re reaching to take something down or put it up, use a stable stool so you don’t have to lift above chest level. When reaching forward try to be as close as possible to the shelf, wall or work station that you are using.


When bending keep your back straight with shoulders over your hips and use your knees to get you down and up. Bend with one knee in front of, or lower than the other. Kneel on one or use your arms to help you get back up. Do not lift items that you are not strong enough to lift. Improper lifting puts a tremendous compressive force on the discs of the low back and will weaken them with repeated abuse.


When carrying, be sure the item is close to your body and the load is balanced. If you must carry a briefcase or shoulder bag, switch sides to give equal time to each shoulder. Backpacks are ideal as they balance the load.


Just as with front wheel drive cars, it’s easier to pull something than to push it. Large items that are not too heavy, but too bulky to pick up are better pulled. Be sure to use good body mechanics.


Lifting belts are okay. Don’t expect a belt to take the place of good abdominal musculature that naturally keeps your back strong. Don’t use a lifting belt following a serious strain or injury and keep lifting.


Everyday good body mechanics and exercises that stretch and strengthen will add up to good back health. Recovery and healing from a back strain may take weeks, why not just avoid injury in the first place? Till next time, Rebecca.