How to Garden without Back Pain – Lifting bags of soil

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Many of you know that I love to garden. Not only does it unleash my artistic side, it also means I can avoid my workouts for a few days.

Maureen Dwight

Done correctly, lifting bags of soil and moving plants can be a great way to get a workout in a much more pleasant environment.  And the long term results are more than worth the effort!

What’s most important is to not get hurt doing the things we love.  I see far too many people after they hurt their back, when simple tips and tricks could have prevented these injuries.

How to Garden without Back Pain

One of the most common back injuries occurs after the trip to the garden centre.  Maybe you bought 10 bags of soil or just one, however the assistant kindly helped you load it into your trunk.  Now you are home and need to get it out by yourself.  Here’s some tips on lifting bags and soils and on how to garden without back pain.

Removing the soil from the trunk

It seems inevitable that by the time we get home the bags have moved to the farthest recess of the trunk.  The heavier the item the more important it is to bring it close into your body before you lift.  Car trunks are particularly difficult as the bumpers get in the way.  Here’s how to get the bags of soil out of the trunk in the safest way possible:

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  • Put on your gardening clothes so that you can get close to your soil. You may get dirty hugging the bags.
  • Put one foot on the bumper or in the trunk (station wagon or SUV).
  • Bend from the hips and then reach forward.
  • Never stoop unless you have no other choice.
  • Exhale and slide the bags toward you.
  • Don’t start to lift until the bags are comfortably close
  • Put both feet on the ground to make sure you are stable before you lift
  • Bend your knees to lift
  • Hug your soil into your body

Putting the soil on the cart or ground

Putting the soil down is another moment of risk.  You have carefully lifted the bag and then you twist and put it on the ground beside you.  That momentarily  unthought out maneuver  can cost you 3-4 days in bed with back pain.  Here’s some tips on how to avoid that happening to you:

1. Never twist when you are lifting.

Always make sure you turn your feet  and not your back.  You know you are doing it right if you look down and your feet are in alignment with your hips and shoulders.

2. Plan before you lift.

Think about where you need to put it down and how to make sure you can be in close to where you want to end up.

3. Use a cart.

Walking with 20 or 30 lb. bags is work, especially if there are steps.   You might want to do a few of these in exchange for your workout but make sure you are strong enough.  Sometimes we need to work up to these challenges.

No cart? No problem – Hug your soil as you walk.

4. Bend your knees and keep your back straight.

Everyone tells you this however I find it is very poorly executed.  Your shoulders should not be ahead of your knees as you lift or lower a weight.

More information on how to garden without back pain

I hope this helps you to enjoy your garden for the whole summer.  Look for upcoming blogs as I will continue to post as my garden demands more of my attention, especially as we get into raking and fall transplanting.  Or check out our blogs on how to do almost anything without getting hurt.

If you need more advice or have hurt your back doing the things you love, please call us at the clinic for an appointment 416-925-4687 or email us as

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