Avoiding Back Pain from Gardening
Generalised Lower Back Pain
With everyone spending more and more time outside during the summery months, you’d be amazed how this can affect my workload. I’m getting calls from loads of clients, new and old, who have managed to strain their backs when gardening or getting back into action with their DIY.
To us chiropractors, it’s clear to see why – if you’re going to stay in doors and not move for half the year, it’s hardly surprising that your muscles will have a problem when you suddenly ask them to squat, weed and lift heavy things.
In most cases of back pain caused by strain when gardening, the result is what we call ‘generalised lower back pain’. This type of pain is most commonly caused by long-ish periods of a specific activity such as bending, raking, weeding, twisting to get under the sink – basically activities that put you in an unusual position over a long period of time. The outcome is a grumbly lower back – it’s not specific points of pain, but rather the soreness caused by the overuse of joints and muscles. If there’s no pain down the legs, this type of pain is usually going to sort itself out within 10 days / 2 weeks. However, there are some things you can do to help it feel better faster…
First things first: stop doing the activity that’s causing pain! It’s amazing how many people will carry on and only take action when the pain gets really bad! As soon as you notice it, stop your weeding, drop your rake and head for a comfortable seat or bed – take the weight off!
Next, get something cold (like a pack of peas wrapped in a towel) on your lower back. Peas or ice-cubes can be bumpy to lie on – you can also get icepacks which are thin and flat, but in most cases a bag of peas will do. Make sure not to put anything too cold directly on your skin!
About 15 minutes of cold is enough, and that should ease the pain. If it doesn’t, go the other route and try heat. I would recommend a hot bath, but people sometimes aggravate nicely relaxed muscles as they try to get out of the bath again. A hot water bottle will do – but make sure it’s not too hot and certainly wrap it in a towel! If you’re lucky enough to have access to one, a Jacuzzi with steps that you easily get in and out of, or a warm steam room, would probably be good too.
While I’m not a fan of painkillers in general, you may find that ibuprophen helps alongside the heat and ice. This is because it’s an anti-inflammatory as well as a painkiller. Just make sure to take it with food, because it’s not always nice to the stomach.
If cold or heat is going to help relieve the pain, you should see an improvement within 2-3 days. HOWEVER, if either of them actively aggravate the problem, if you experience any leg pain or if your back is not improving when you take these measures, seek further advice and help. Sadly, especially at this time of year, GPs will see so many people with generalised lower back pain that they are likely to tell you that it should go in 2-3 weeks and to come back if it’s still bad at that time. I recommend that you take action sooner than that – if ice and heat aren’t helping, it’s a good idea to get it looked at properly.
About Dr Maria Madge
Maria is a female chiropractor with a clinic in Bury St Edmunds. Having qualified as a Chiropractor in 2008, Maria has added to her training with courses in TMJ, Applied Kinesiology, Nutrition, Pediatrics and Birth Trauma. She has also completed a five-year course in Sacro Occipital Technique (SOT), which looks at the whole of the spine, the cranium and individual organs and helps to restore balance of the nervous system, improving general health and functionality.