Gardening and back pain

For many of us, gardening is a therapeutic and relaxing pastime, providing the opportunity to create a calm outside space, get some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine (when the weather allows). Its common that lower back pain can delay people returning to their gardens in spring or in some cases be the cause of the pain itself.

As an osteopath we’re here to advise and guide you through aches and pains, and suggest ways to make achieving your goals and enjoying your hobbies more comfortable.

Back pain can start as a slight muscle tightness and in some cases build up to the restriction of joints and quite debilitating discomfort. When we’re gardening being mindful of how we’re moving the body, and for how long,  can help reduce the risk of the pain building up. Movement is important, and maintaining one position for an extended period may lead to tension.

Bending and twisting are safe movements to do, although lifting responsibly and listening to your body is very important.

Tips for preventing back pain when gardening

Warm up and stretch before and after

Gardening requires physical effort, by recognising it as exercise can help to take the appropriate steps to preventing pain. Warming up and stretching before gardening can encourage blood flow around the body, gets the joints moving and may reduce any pre existing tension in the body before working in the garden.

Taking regular breaks

Taking a moment every hour or so, taking a seat, having a refreshment, gives your body chance to rest and allow muscles to recover to prevent them feeling tired and therefore creating pain.


Using tools with long handles allows leverage and weight to be distributed, making garden work more manageable. If you’re working in the boarders and are using tools with short handles, using a kneeling pad or even sitting on the floor or lower stool can provide alternative positions to work.

Safe Lifting

Be responsible when lifting heavy items, and if its something you may need help with, wait for someone to help you lift it. Bending with the knees and driving the movement from the legs rather than the back can prevent the back from pain and injury during lifting. If there is a way to make something lighter, such as decanting soil into a barrow or smaller container and moving it little by little this can also protect the back.

Osteopathic treatment can help to reduce tension escalating and encourage mobility of tight joints while reducing tension in muscles. Strengthening and stretch exercises will also be suggested to support physical movement in the garden.