Is Back Pain stopping you Gardening?

I don't know if you have a dog..but mine is causing havoc in my garden and is now on the naughty step.

I've got a south facing gravel garden and I've had to put all sorts of things in her way to stop her parting the gravel like the Red Sea in her efforts to get to the neighbour's cats. and trashing my new plantings along the way.

Much as I love being out there, albeit not as often as I should perhaps, spending any amount of time bending forward doesn't feel great on my body, even though I am in pretty good shape.

Likewise Pilates teachers everywhere dread a sunny bank holiday or Easter weekend because after sitting on their bums all winter, suddenly heading out to the garden for hours of digging, moving pots, throwing bags of compost around leaves our new clients complaining of aches and pains..REALLY!!!!! Why is this a surprise? It's not rocket science to work out that sitting down all winter followed by a day of hard work is going to result in some discomfort.

Using the winter to plan your garden fitness might be a better use of the dormant season in the garden.

So here's a tip for anyone who needs to move their spine, clearly if you have more than just a few aches and pains, you need to see someone to get checked out and don't do these movement suggestions.


The way to lubricate your spine after any 'bending forward' activity. It's best done against a wall with your feet about a foot length away from the wall as it gives you more feedback as you roll away from the wall and roll back up again.

Stand tall, no slouching! Pull in your belly SLIGHTLY..don't over do this. Pull up your pelvic floors slightly..again don't overdo this either.

Start with a nod of the head and slowly and gradually roll forward and down.

The lower you go, the more abdominal work you need to add..but its still not a big contraction. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the process and roll back up again to stand tall.

It smooths out the kinks, it gets your discs lubricated, it works the muscles and encourages segmental spinal movement.. however a word of warning...don't do it if it causes pain! What kind of pain?? Well if its just because your back is stiff from gardening all day, then it will be SO grateful for the movement, if it causes any kind of nerve type pain, then don't do it, as stated before, get checked out. Email me if you want suggestions of who to see.


Standing or sitting, put your hands behind your head, then press your head into your hands, chin up, shoulders down, breast bone lifted, ribs in, pull in your belly slightly. If your office chairs swivels even better, you must keep the chair still, so sit tall on the chair and keep the hips facing forward.

Turn your head first to the right, then turn your shoulders and rib cage, pause, check your shoulders for tension, turn the shoulders and ribs back to centre, then turn your head back to centre, turn to the left with your head, then shoulders and ribs, pause again, then ribs and shoulders back, then head.

For this first set, keep your pelvis still! Do at least 5 turns to each side.

Your focus should be on the movement of the middle of your back – you are trying to increase your ability to turn as far as you can each way and to keep as lengthened as possible all the time.

Then standing, turn the head, then shoulders and ribs, then pelvis down through to the ankles, just feel bits of your body rotate, pause, return from bottom up, so ankles, knees, thigh bones, pelvis, ribs and shoulders, then head last. Go the other way leading with the head.

You just want lovely smooth, slow movement in both directions, taking your time to allow each section to move. As you move check for tension creeping in that doesn't really need to be there.

There are so many more things you can do to keep your joints mobilised. You don't need any special kit, or a room ready to work out in, you just need the intention to move and move well.

It's easy to fall into the 'I'm getting older I need to take more care' mode of thinking. But really that's when we should be moving more, not less.

Don't limit your enjoyment of life for ANY reason. If there is something that you love to do and that gives you pleasure, make sure your body can keep up with you and that just takes a few minutes a day to push yourself out of a bit of comfort and moving well.

Enjoy the summer in your garden. and let's hope mine survives Millie!

Stephen Irvine