Gardening can provide a great workout, but with all the bending, twisting, reaching and pulling, your body and back may not be ready for exercise of the garden variety.

In the International Chiropractors Association's (ICA) July 5th 2001 issue of the Chiropractic News Service appears tips and warnings concerning safe gardening related to spinal health. Because of the emphasis on a healthy spine relating to a healthy nervous system and therefore overall good health, the ICA issued the gardening tips as a preventative measure. The ICA release starts by saying, "The best preparation for safe summer gardening is a body properly conditioned and supported by exercise, good posture, and chiropractic care all year round.

The ICA went on to recommend a list of 10 Do's and Don'ts of Gardening These guidelines are designed to help you garden safely.

The ICA's Do's and Don'ts of Gardening:
Warm up with light movement or a brisk walk to loosen your muscles and increase your flexibility. The smooth coordination of your muscles and ligaments is an important part of safe exertion in gardening and other activities. Know your strengths and limitations. Do not overexert, vary your activities, and take regular rest breaks. Avoid bending over repeatedly while standing upright when performing ground-level work like weeding. Get down closer to the task by kneeling or sitting on the ground or a gardening bench, rather than bending and twisting from the waist.

Keep your back protected when you stand up from a sitting or crouched position. Rise up by straightening your legs at the knees, not by lifting your torso at the waist. Lift dirt and plants by letting your arms, legs and thighs carry the load: bend and straighten at the knees instead of the back and hips. Lift the load close to the body's torso and center of gravity, and handle smaller, more manageable loads at a time. Use long-handled tools to give you leverage and help you avoid having to stoop while raking, digging, pushing or mowing.

Switch hands frequently when doing prolonged raking, hoeing or digging actions. Repetitive motion on one side can bring on progressively serious joint imbalances and may produce postural misalignments and pain, including muscle spasms in the neck, shoulder and lower back. Don't work too long in one position, especially one that is awkward or unusual. This can reduce circulation, restrict mobility, and promote strain injuries. Carry objects close to your body. Keeping the load close to your center of gravity reduces the risk of straining your neck and back. Don't overexpose yourself to long periods in the sun. Utilize protective measures for your head and skin, drink plenty of fluids, and take frequent breaks.

In a May 12, 2003 release from the "Canada NewsWire" was some information and advice about gardening. The news release reported on a new poll just released that reveals that gardening and yard work are the number one causes of back and/or neck pain in the spring and summer months. The poll was conducted by national research firm Pollara, where 500 Ontario Canada chiropractors were asked what were the largest causes of back and neck pain among their patients.  The results of the poll showed that eighty-eight per cent of Ontario chiropractors report that working in the yard and garden are the most common sources of back and neck pain they see during the warm weather season. Golf ranked in second place at 31 per cent, tied with outdoor sports in general at 30 per cent.

Dr. Dennis Mizel, President of the Ontario Chiropractic Association noted, "In Canada, gardening is an estimated $3.5 billion business and all that digging, lifting, raking, pruning, planting, weeding and watering can cause significant strain to the muscles and back." Dr. Mizel continued, "The good news is that it's preventable. Gardening can be a serious workout. That's why we're encouraging people to treat it like any other kind of exercise. Warming-up before digging in, and using the proper techniques and tools can go a long way to letting people enjoy the results of their labor pain-free."

The Ontario Chiropractic Association is partnering with the Ontario Horticultural Society, the Garden Clubs of Ontario and Sheridan Nurseries to help get the word out about back safe yard work and gardening. "Thousands of people visit our gardening centers once the warm weather hits," says Mary-Beth Brown, Marketing Coordinator, Sheridan Nurseries. "So we're pleased to be able to reach our customers with this public education program. It's a good idea to limber up before you get to the gardening centre and start loading supplies into your car or truck, and we always have someone to help out if a customer needs assistance."

In the article the Ontario Chiropractic Association offered several tips for back smart gardening:

- Stretch Before You Start: Warming-up your muscles with stretches before going out helps to reduce the stress and strain on your joints and muscles, reducing the chance of injury.

- Bend Your Knees to Lift with Ease: When lifting, keep your back straight and bend your knees. Always carry the load close to your body and avoid twisting.

- The right tools, the right moves: Use the right tools and moves for the job. Kneel to plant and change positions frequently when raking, digging, hoeing or pruning. Use ergonomically designed, long handled, lightweight tools.

- Take a Break Before It Aches: Give yourself and your back a break. As a rule-of-thumb take a brief rest or stretch break at least three times each hour, and drink fluids frequently.