Being a physical therapist has its advantages. I know a thing or two about managing chronic pain. Today I want to share some thoughts about gardening with back pain.
I've learned about managing pain from practicing my profession for 27 years, and from living with chronic pain most of my adult life. My spinal problems are chronic but I do my best to not let them stop me. I think most people who know me don't know of my pain. I strive to keep it to myself. My family is in on the situation but mostly I really work on the whole grin and bear it model of coping.
Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.
I don't know who said it first, but this statement reminds me that although my pain will not go away, it will also not change me and I will not spread it around.
Being active is essential for me. If I stop moving I hurt more. The problem is, if I overdo activity I hurt more. Over time I have learned my limitations. I have learned to respect my body's ability, but to have realistic expectations of it.
If I pay attention to the cues given by my body I can get lots of work done without more pain. The key is to listen and rest when my body asks for it. When working in the garden I stop and stretch often. Sometimes just getting up and walking around the garden helps to loosen things. Being in one position for too long is not good for me, so I switch it up. For example, I'll kneel to weed for a while then I'll stand and do some pruning then go back to kneeling for more weeding.
Using proper bodymechanics is one of the things I do to protect my back. It means moving in ways that protect my joints, like bending my knees when I pick up something from the floor.
Yesterday I sprayed my melon patch with neem oil. My sprayer has a wand that is about 16 inches long. In order to avoid bending over, I sat upon a low stool. Sitting up straight I extended my arm and sprayed as far as I could reach without bending over. Then I moved the stool and sprayed some more of the vines.
Using a slow forward and backward motion I sprayed one small area at a time to be sure I covered all the leaves, including both the tops and bottoms of the leaves. Moving slowly is much less work than using a quick forward/backward motion. It uses much less energy and is less wear and tear on the joints. The same is true when vacuuming. If you move the vacuum slowly it is able to pick up more dirt than if you move fast. Going slowly you only need to go over it once or twice, not several times. It's more efficient, same with spraying the garden.
If I had stood instead of using the stool, it would have meant squatting and bending over for at least twenty minutes. That would equal pain in my world.
I finished my little garden chore and my back is happy.