Green Fingered?

Top physio tips for gardeners this Summer!

The sun is out and gardeners in Milton Keynes are grabbing this opportunity to spend long hours in their gardens and on allotments.

Here at Milton Keynes Physiotherapy we believe in PREVENTION and EDUCATION and 'Top tips for Gardeners' is the first of a series of topical issues that we will cover on a monthly basis to help Milton Keynes citizens help themselves and prevent injury!

Common Gardening-related problems include;

  • Back Pain
  • Muscle strains
  • Tennis and Golfers elbow
  • Knee problems

How can you help yourself?

  • Lifting and bending

If you must lift and bend repetitively when you are gardening, you must make sure that you do so in the correct way. Make sure you don’t bend from your spine but use your hips and knees. You may find that a pelvic support helps, or even squeezing your tummy and bottom muscles before you bend or lift may help to give your spine extra support.

  • Take regular breaks!

We advise that if you are spending long periods in the garden you should take a break every 10-25 minutes to give your back and joints a rest. If you are spending prolonged periods lifting, or in a bent position, you may want to make these breaks even more frequent to reduce spinal injuries.

  • Wear a pelvic support

If you suffer with back pain you may find that giving your spine and pelvis more support when gardening reduces the stresses and strains on your back. This does not mean that you should do more and you should still take frequent breaks every 20-30 minutes. However you should not rely on a pelvic support and you may find that strengthening your back muscles through specific exercises also helps do the same job.

  • Clinical Pilates

Clinical Pilates is gentle exercise that works on strengthening the muscles that improve posture and support your spine. Weekly sessions may be helpful to strengthen you up if you are a very keen gardener or if you suffer with frequent problems. This form of exercise can easily be done in your own home or in a class environment. Contact Milton Keynes Physiotherapy for more information.

  • Gentle exercise

Knee pain is a common problem experienced by gardeners normally caused by repeated bending and squatting. By strengthening the muscles around your knees you will provide them with more support that may reduce the risk of problems. Gentle exercise such as swimming or cycling 2 to 3 times a week may help. Your Physiotherapist may also be able to prescribe you a specific exercise program tailored to suit your needs.

  • Elbow problems

Using shears and cutters often results in elbow pain. This may be caused by inflammation of the tendons around the elbow, muscle strains through overuse or nerve irritation. If you are using shears regularly you must ensure that you take regular breaks and stop if you start to experience pain. Ice application may reduce symptoms, as can specific wrist and elbow exercises. Your physiotherapist may also be able to show you how to tape your elbow yourself when gardening which may help to reduce the pressure on certain structures.

  • Work at your level

Ensure that working areas in greenhouses are positioned at an appropriate height - about elbow level or just below is often enough to reduce bending the spine. You may also be able to sit at this height in your greenhouse and still work effectively. Raised beds are also a good idea for reducing bending and spinal strains.

  • Use the right equipment

You may also be able to purchase equipment that may prevent strains on your back when gardening. Look for spades and tools that have long handles and those that are specially designed for this purpose. Visit your local Frosts Garden Centre ( for a wide range of gardening tools and equipment and speak to a member of their friendly team for advice. Always seek specialist advice first before purchasing equipment and always use the tool that is appropriate for the job in hand.

  • Check your posture

Do a little at a time and think about your posture particularly when mowing and planting. Try to keep your back straight at all times and never lift heavy items without assistance. It is also advisable that planting is carried out from a kneeling position to reduce stress on the back.

These tips are designed to help you to reduce the risk of developing problems, however we cannot guarantee that if you follow this advice you will not experience any of the conditions listed above. If you have any concerns or queries, or if you want to discuss any of these issues, please contact Milton Keynes Physiotherapy directly.

Enjoy your garden safely this summer!

HPC - Health Professions Council The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy PhysioFirst

Get in touch

We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. Call us on 01908 299272 or email: