Gardening season has begun here in Maryland and it took no time at all for me to hurt my lower back doing what for me is the riskiest gardening move of all – bending over.
So my first question for readers is – have you found a way to avoid bending over?
When in Pain, What to Do?
My typical pattern is to overdo, spend a few days of pain not gardening at all, finally giving in to the itch to bend over and dig or pick stuff up and re-injuring my back, in a frustrating cycle.
This time, I decided to get serious about the problem – by Googling it, of course. Here’s what I’ve learned from a few trusted sources.
Medline has some fine suggestions but I have trouble doing these:
- “DO NOT exercise in the days right after the pain begins. After 2 to 3 weeks, slowly begin to exercise again. A physical therapist can teach you which exercises are right for you.” (Seriously?)
- “DO NOT do activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting of your back for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins.” (For me this could mean no lifting or twisting for 9 months of every year.)
But yes, I do take it easy and pop some Ibuprofens. The hardest for me may be reducing the time I spend sitting at my desk. You know, blogging and stuff.
Here’s my real frustration – I thought I was already doing every damn thing I’m supposed to to prevent back injury: daily stretching, Pilates-type core stuff, aerobics, good posture, and bending the right way. But my back tells me I’m wrong, so I’m on a tear to do even MORE so I can do a bit of weeding without regretting it for days on end.
The Mayo Clinic recommends:
- “Regular low-impact aerobic activities.” (Check.)
- “Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises, which strengthen your core, help condition these muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for your back. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs aligns your pelvic bones to improve how your back feels.”
I’m already doing most of the exercises the Mayo Clinic recommends but I’m determined to add the cat stretch, seated rotation and shoulder blade squeeze.
After checking with WedMD I’ll be adding these exercises they recommend: the hamstring stretch with towel, wall sit, press up back extension, bird dog, pelvic tilt and bridging. Except for the wall sit, they all feel great to do, so there’s instant reward.
Is the Core the Key?
The Mayo Clinic mentions the “core,” a concept we’ve only recently been told to care about, thanks in part to Pilates. Mayo says to “Do exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles. This will strengthen your core to decrease the risk of further injuries.”
So to avoid expensive Pilates classes I took to the Internet and found lots of exercises recommended by Self Magazine, from which I’m adding these to my routine: dead bug, bird dog, reverse lunge, and plank.
Again, they all feel great, except for the plank.
Speaking of which, have you noticed the plank getting more than its 15 minutes of fame lately? It’s partly due to the Plank Challenge, but viral photos of 86-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg doing it sure helped.
I take inspiration from anyone that much older than me who manages to do what she does. So she’s my workout hero now and my fan-girl worship of her is complete