man shoveling dirt in a garden

 Four Tips to Prevent Back Pain While Gardening

 “Though April showers may come your way,

They bring the flowers that bloom in May”

 - Louis Silvers and B.G De Sylva, 1921


While April showers may bring a lot of rain, especially in Vancouver, at Edgemont Chiropractic Clinic, it brings back pain to the gardeners in May.

Back pain from gardening can result from lifting bags of soil and fertilizer, raking, digging, planting, weeding and just generally getting down in the dirt.

Bending over from the lower back during gardening creates a slow stretch of the muscles and ligaments. This slow stretch results in weakness of the muscles and laxity of the ligaments, allowing what is called “creep deformity” – a slow and gradual reduction in the stability and alignment of the spine which turns into back pain

 To get your back ready for the garden, warm up first with these 4 exercise tips:  

1. Activate your core muscles

Your diaphragm is a key core muscle you’re probably not using. It acts as a piston to pressure your torso and active all core muscles .

Start by lying on your back, knees bent, and take in 20-30 abdominal breaths. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest – the hand on your belly should rise up and down, the hand on your chest should not move. This should take you about 2 minutes. (Check out our Youtube channel for an example abdominal breathing)

 2. Get your back moving

Do the Cat/Camel exercise on all fours. 10 repetitions. The slide your buttocks back towards your heels and do another 10 reps, you should feel the movement a little higher up the spine.

 3. Activate your glutes

Your glutes, or buttocks are muscles, not cushions for sitting. Get them going by doing these 2 exercises:  

  • Hip Bridge – lay on your back, knees bent. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor to be parallel with your shoulders. Keep the core contracted – hold for 6 seconds and repeat 6 times. ·        
  • Hip Abduction – lay on your side, with your back up against a wall, shoes off.  Bend your lower leg at the knee. Keeping your upper leg straight – gently press your heel against the wall and raise and lower your leg 10 times. Think of your heel as polishing the wall. Repeat on the other side.

4. Learn the Hip Hinge

We talk about this daily in the clinic, and it’s interesting how hard it is for most people to do. The technique involves bending from the hip, instead of bending from the back, squatting or crouching. Use it when your lift or have to bend forward. It saves your back a lot of stress and allows for maximum hip muscle efficiency. While it may seem unnatural at first – look at a toddler pick something off the floor – they don’t bend their back – they hip hinge.


Click this link to access the Youtube exercise videos and get 2 bonus exercise tips for gardening!

Don’t forget to use sunscreen, keep well hydrated and take breaks – it’s a long gardening season!


Dr. David Olson

Dr. David Olson

Contact Me