Healthy Back Tips

April 2006

Guidelines for Bending while Gardening

Guidelines for Bending while Gardening

“Playing in the dirt” as the gardening phrase goes places physical demand on the low back. Sustained or repeated bending stresses spinal muscles, ligaments, joints and discs. In order to enjoy gardening in the spring, you want to be aware of your spinal posture and minimize bending stress while working.

One strategy which can reduce load on the spine involves half kneeling. With this method, one foot is placed on the ground with the hip and knee flexed while the opposite knee is kneeling on the ground. Prop an arm on your knee (as shown in Picture A) so as to unload your upper body from your low back. The other hand is now free to use for digging, planting, weeding, etc.

Another effective method to reduce bending stress on the spine when gardening is called the tri-pod strategy. The tri-pod technique is a hands and knees position that keeps the low back straight. Weight bearing is distributed onto both knees and one hand while the other hand is used for gardening (Picture B). If both hands are required for the work activity, lean your upper body onto a small bench or stool while you are on your knees (Picture C). In this way your back is supported in a neutral position and bending stress is reduced.

In general, avoid staying in one position for too long (change position every 10 – 15 minutes), take frequent breaks (every 45 – 60 minutes) and try not to work for more than 2 – 3 hours in a given day.

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C


For more information specific to your condition or gardening situation, contact the Atlanta Back Clinic, or call us at 770-491-6004 to set up an appointment with a physical therapist.