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Gardener’s Back Pain – Look After Your Back in the Garden

Gardening is wonderful, as well as getting to eat the fruits of your labours, you actually get some good healthy exercise in the fresh air. But gardening and allotment-keeping also have their strains, and that includes your back pain.

Back Pain

A Gallup poll for the BBC – BBC News Site revealed that 42% of adults have suffered from back pain and nearly half of those said that the pain was as a result of gardening. What’s worse, as someone over 50, is that the proportion who blamed gardening for their back ache was even higher!

Having managed to develop sciatica myself, which I blame on lifting loads of leaves into the leafmould bin, I’ve a personal interest in back pain & problems.

So what should you do to reduce the strain on your back?

Be careful when lifting.

Bak-eze to Relieve Back Pain

The Bak-eze apron to Relieve Back Pain

We all know the rule – bend your knees! Of course, it’s easier said than done but following this simple rule will prevent strain on your back. Once your knees are bent, grasp your load firmly. Then use your legs to push upward into a standing position. Avoid twisting whilst carrying a weight (that’s what did for my back).

Consider a Bak-eze gardening apron. It supports your back as you bend over, reducing pressure on the lower back. This is a remarkable invention by Peter Martinez, an engineer who suffered a broken back in a car crash at the age of 21. He found himself unable to do manual work or gardening because of the excruciating pain.

The Bak-eze apron works by transmitting much of the load and upper body weight to your thighs through built in patented springs, dramatically reducing the tension on your back muscles.

Sadly it doesn’t seem to be available now.

Warm up before you start

Backsaver Autospade

Backsaver Autospade for Back Sufferers

If you notice professional athletes always do warming up exercises before they race or whatever. It gets the blood flowing and the muscles moving. Before you start a heavy job, do some lighter jobs and ease into it.

Be careful when digging

Get as close as you can and avoid twisting. Don’t try to dig too much at a time, and take regular breaks. The Backsaver Autospade can help you dig at twice the speed of a conventional spade and means that you have to bend less.

It’s a new version of the Wolf Terrex Autospade. This ingenious tool (popular in the 1970s and now back in production) was specially designed to reduce back strain and effort with the bonus of digging at up to twice the speed of a conventional spade.

All you have to do is take a spit, pull back on the comfy handles and a large spring at the base of the shaft acts to throw the soil forward and turn it over.

It features a carbon steel blade which holds a lovely sharp edge, galvanised fixings and ‘comfy grip’ PVC handles.

Standwell Long Pattern Garden Tools

Standwell Long Pattern Garden Tools

Long Handled Tools

One cause of back problems when gardening is using tools that are too short. The obvious solution is to use tools with long handles.

Long Handled Garden Tools allow you to work from a standing position to eliminate bending and avoid back pain.

They are novel designs but with a traditional look and traditional quality. Very carefully shaped heads and extra long handles for optimum leverage and balance, forged in carbon steel to make them super tough and long lasting, with hand finished ash handles.

Bespoke manufacture was by R.Carter Ltd. of Huddersfield who have 275 years experience of toolmaking but sadly no longer making these.

Carry smaller loads and pace yourself.

Don’t try to carry everything at once. Make multiple trips to the compost bin and don’t over-fill the wheelbarrow. There really isn’t any point in straining yourself with large loads. Neither is it a good idea to work on and on. Just a few hours at a time will leave you able to move but a long heavy day, if you’re not used to it, will leave you in agony.

Remember, take your time, don’t try to do everything at once. Gardening is supposed to be fun!


I’m a gardener, not a doctor so we make no representation or warranty of any kind in relation to this advice.

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