Spring is here again and the garden will soon be rampant. Gardening is not only a very common cause of lower back aches and pains but can also affect your hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders and knees.

So how can we minimise the risk of hurting ourselves?

  • be aware of your posture
  • avoid repetitive actions
  • avoid sustaining one position for too long
  • use the correct tool for the job
  • keep your equipment well maintained for ease of use
  • be smart and pace yourself

Posture Tips for Tools

Pruners, Shearers, Loppers and Scissors: It’s a bit like typing, it seems harmless enough at the time but over hours, days and weeks the muscles get tighter and then, bang, we get arm or upper back pain.

  • swap hands occasionally
  • vary the tools you use to change muscle action
  • keep your wrists in line with the tool that you are using

Lawn Mowers:

  • walk upright
  • shoulders relaxed
  • elbows at 90 degrees
  • hold the mower with a loose grip
  • get right down to empty catcher DO NOT bend and twist!

All the pushing work should be coming from your legs and not from your arms or back. If your mower is heavy you could consider an electric or battery operated mower as they are generally lighter . . . or get the student down the road to do it!


  • do small amounts at a time and alternate with waist high work
  • keep close to your work
  • vary your position:
    • kneel keeping your back relatively straight
    • kneel on one knee with one shin on the ground and swap over your legs frequently
    • squat or sit on your heels (if you can)
    • use a stool use a Dutch hoe


  • use the correct tool for the job
  • keep your back as straight as you can
  • use your legs
  • keep your digging sessions short

Weed Eaters (whipper snippers):

These are heavy tools and can strain shoulders, ribs and lower backs so know your limitations.

  • use the harness if you have one
  • keep a relaxed hold of the handle
  • relax your shoulders
  • keep your knees soft
  • try to engage your abdominal muscles
  • move your feet to move your whole body when rotating from side to side

At the end of a big gardening day look after yourself.

  • go for a gentle walk to work out tight muscles and stiff joints
  • do some stretching of legs, back and arms
  • have a warm bath with Epsom salts

If you feel sharper more acute pain immediately after a gardening activity put some cold on it straight away. An ice pack wrapped in fabric or even a cold water bottle for 5-20mins.

Happy gardening!