I’ll tell you for free: gardening is probably one of the most physically intensive activities you can put your body through. While you’ll get beautiful flowers, thriving plants, and juicy fruits out of it, activities like weeding can lead to back pain. After all, weeding a garden requires prolonged kneeling, standing, crouching, or bending over—risk factors for conditions affecting the neck and spine.
You can weed a garden without hurting your back by using the appropriate tools, maintaining the right posture, and warming up with some exercises. Taking frequent breaks, using herbicides, and mulching the garden can also help.
Weeding can be intense, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Knowing the right things to do before, during, and after gardening will help save you from developing back issues. Let’s dive into these tips!
1. Use the Right Gardening Tools
Using the right gardening tools for weeding isn’t just a great excuse to take out your fancy digging knife from its packaging—it’s an excellent way to minimize back pain. After all, gardening tools help you do more in less time and are more efficient than traditional methods.
But what are the right gardening tools for weeding? What makes these tools so effective?
There are dozens of gardening tools, each with its unique use. They include heavy tools for edging and mowing to more modest ones, like the timeless wheelbarrow.
While weeding tools come in all shapes and sizes, they are more specialized—a testament to the work they accomplish.
You can classify most weeding tools under:
- Short-handled weeding tools
- Long-handled weeding tools
You must understand what each tool is for and which works best in a situation to get the best use out of it. In the next sections, we’ll explore these classes of tools and see some examples.
Short-Handled Weeding Tools
Short-handled weeding tools help you dig up weed roots, making it easier to cut them away from the soil. They’re perfect for eliminating weeds from a garden since you can remove all traces of the plant from the ground.
Examples of short-handled weeding tools include:
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. These are simply three of the most common short-handled weeding tools.
Other tools can also help you smoothen the soil once you’re done weeding. This practice, in particular, will ensure your plant roots do not get exposed or damaged.
Ultimately, the advantage of using these tools is efficiency. They reduce your time in awkward positions, thereby protecting your back. Still, I recommend you always get steel versions of these gardening tools as they work better and last longer.
Long-Handled Weeding Tools
The second class of weeding tools is long-handled weeding tools. These tools perform diverse functions but share the same long handles. These handles allow you to complete tasks like moving, watering, and digging without significant stress to your back, neck, or arms.
Examples of long-handled weeding tools include:
Hoes help you gather all the plant litter after weeding and make disposal much easier. Loppers, on the other hand, can cut off branches and stems of tougher weeds—eliminating the need to pull too hard on them.
Remember to take adequate safety precautions when handling these tools. While injuries from them are uncommon, they still happen.
Stay mindful of what direction you’re swinging in, and try as much as possible to wear gardening gloves.
These gloves are mainly used to protect your hands from bruises due to friction. However, they’re also great for minimizing cuts and offer protection from chemicals that could irritate your skin.
2. Maintain Proper Posture
Maintaining the right posture while gardening is key to preventing back pain. Weeding is already physically exerting, but awkward twists and bends—even for a few moments—can take a massive toll on your body.
I recommend you keep your back as straight as possible while gardening. Remember not to overexert yourself or perform activities you’re not comfortable doing.
It’s also a great idea to stop whatever you’re doing and take a break if you notice cramps or pain.
If the pain does not subside after a while, it might be best to wait until it does, as carrying on will only make it worse.
I’ve found that getting help is better when working with heavy loads or performing particularly strenuous gardening activities.
Still, it’s crucial to maintain proper posture when using these tools. Ensure you read the manufacturer’s instructions before breaking the product packaging, and only use as directed.
For example, shovels are helpful when rooting stubborn weeds, but they can hurt you—and deface your garden—if you use them like a machete.
How Mobility Can Help Improve Posture When Weeding a Garden
Mobility during weeding is also essential when weeding a garden—and not just your feet. Remember to move your hips and knees more than your back when working. Avoid standing in one spot for too long or bending from the waist.
These habits can significantly hurt your back.
Still, while keeping your back erect and moving about can reduce the risk of back pain, kneeling might be your best course of action. Kneeling keeps the body evenly balanced and can reduce stress on your back as well as other parts of your body.
However, ensure you don’t bend when weeding. While bending and kneeling might seem similar in many aspects, they don’t mean the same thing. In fact, they have different effects on the human body.
Bending for extended periods will distort the spine’s natural position and cause several back-related injuries as well as medical conditions like herniated discs and sciatica. Strains from bending could also cause you to develop inflammation and violent muscle spasms.
Another way to keep the correct posture is to consider supporting your weight with one of your hands. Afterward, you can switch over to reduce the stress on that side of the body. I recommend you change positions like this every 30 minutes.
You can even alternate which hand you’re working with if you’re using tools. However, I don’t recommend using your non-dominant hand if you’re working with tools that require careful effort.
Kneeling pads are also an excellent way to promote good posture when weeding since they relieve strain on your knee. Most of them have a high-quality, heavily-foamed structure that protects you from the rubble, soil, and moisture.
3. Incorporate Some Exercise Into Your Daily Routine
Exercise can be crucial if you want to prevent back pain when weeding your garden. After all, the awkward positions you put your body in can take some toll on your muscles, so training those muscles beforehand can make a world of difference.
Ultimately, the best exercises to add to your daily routine to prevent back pain when gardening are:
- Strengthening exercises
- Stretching exercises
You don’t need to start an entire calisthenics session before weeding your garden. Still, some light daily exercise is necessary to push your body’s limits so it doesn’t balk as easily.
A quick stretch to limber up can also go a long way. Alternatively, you can add these exercises to your routine if you work out.
In the next section, you’ll learn everything you need to know about exercising to avoid hurting your back.
Strengthening exercises generally aim to improve strength and can cover a wide range of compound and non-compound movements. For weeding, more muscle strength makes pulling weeds out of the ground much easier.
Here are two great strengthening exercises you can try:
- Bird dog
The Bird dog is a relatively simple core exercise that helps relieve back pain, keep your spine neutral, and increase your body’s range of motion. It’s pretty easy to do and can work wonders to prevent back pains.
Planks are a relatively simple exercise that anyone can do. They are excellent for your abdomen and core, helping to improve your general stability. You can try them out a few minutes before gardening or include them in your daily routine.
Now, let’s examine some stretching exercises.
While strengthening exercises make it much easier to pull out weeds physically, you also need to incorporate exercises to improve flexibility. These exercises enhance mobility and reduce cramps and stiffness.
Here are a few stretching exercises that can make weeding much easier:
- Cobra stretch
- Kneeling back stretch
The cobra stretch contains many movements and is similar to yoga. Commonly known as Bhujangasana, the exercise can help you relieve back pain. It’s also a great way to boost energy before gardening.
The kneeling back stretch is another stretching exercise you can use to stay fit and prevent back pain. It’s not especially difficult and can do wonders for your knees, back, and arms. Don’t forget to start slow for the best results.
These exercises might seem impractical, but they’re unique ways to help condition your body to the rigors of gardening and weeding. However, you’ll only notice improved results with consistency.
4. Take Frequent Breaks
You’ve probably heard this advice a dozen times, but taking breaks is alright. In fact, I recommend taking frequent breaks when weeding a garden.
Breaks will improve the quality of your work, prevent burnout, and protect your back.
Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly popular to “tough it out” when gardening. And while this practice is a surefire way to wear down your body and burn calories, it may also hurt your back.
I suggest resting for about ten minutes every hour to give your back a break.
These frequent rests will prevent pressure from accumulating around your spine and back, preventing muscle fatigue as well as tears.
You can listen to music, scroll through your socials, or lie down when resting.
However, remember to stay hydrated when resting. Dehydration might seem like a small problem, but it can have serious side effects.
For example, low water intake can cause the discs in your lower back to lose water, increasing your chances of developing a herniated disc.
5. Use Herbicides
Weed killers are among the essentials for all gardeners—regardless of the size of your garden and the variety of your plants. After all, weed control can be one of the most challenging aspects of gardening.
Weeds come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll find that some may be easier to eliminate than others.
Fortunately, herbicides are perfect for all kinds of weeds. They eliminate the need to stand or bend in awkward positions for extended periods—preventing back pain.
Another trick is to spray or remove the weeds after it rains or when you water your plants. However, it’s not always an effective way to manage weeds. To learn more about this technique, check out my full guide: Can You Pull Weeds Immediately After It Rains?
6. Mulch Your Garden
I’ve written several articles about mulching and how to get the most out of it. It benefits your garden and plants in many ways, including increasing soil moisture retention and nutrient levels.
However, it can also be a great way to weed gardens without hurting your back.
Mulching helps to keep weeds at bay by reducing the sunlight reaching the bare soil. In turn, the absence of this sunlight prevents the germination of weed seeds.
Ultimately, mulching helps to preserve your back’s health by drastically reducing the need to weed your garden. And although some weeds will still grow through the mulch, they’re relatively easier to manage.
It’s relatively easy to apply mulch to a garden—and the practice is less stressful than fighting weeds using only your hands and garden tools.
You can use excellent wood chips, kitchen waste, leaves, and even sawdust as mulch. These options are referred to as organic mulch and can also be a great choice to reduce waste in your garden.
Few manufacturers have also developed artificial mulch options, such as rubber and glass mulch. These so-called inorganic mulch materials work just as well as their organic counterparts but may not last as long.
However, mulching is only as effective as you make it, and you might not get excellent results if you don’t correctly apply the materials to your garden soil.
Of course, mulch storage can also be problematic. However, I—and many other gardeners—do not condone waste. So, what can you do with leftover or excess mulch?
You can check out my article about storage to learn if you can store extra mulch in large bags. There, I discuss all the tips and tricks you need to know about mulch storage: Can You Store Extra Mulch In Garbage Bags?
7. Call In an Expert
Of course, the best way to prevent weeding-related back injuries is to remove the danger altogether. So, you can eliminate the risk of hurting your back by getting someone else to do the job.
You can get some friends to help or call in an expert. Expert help might be somewhat pricey, but it can be pretty effective.
I recommend you check online for professional weed control businesses in your area or ask your local plant shop for help. You can also consult with other gardeners to learn which companies they’ve used in the past.
Weeding a garden is a fun but stressful ordeal that can leave you with uncomfortable back pain and injuries. However, you can take measures to manage and prevent the risk factors in weeding.
But while this article covers the significant ways to prevent back injuries, the tips I’ve shared may not work if you have some pre-existing back damage. I recommend you visit a doctor if you notice any pain during or after gardening.