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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Apr 6, 2014 6:57 PM CST

Plants Admin

As much as it pains me to admit this, I think that even after decades of gardening, I still don't know the right way to pull weeds.

Feel free to laugh at this admission. I'd probably laugh myself if it weren't happening to me and if it didn't hurt so much.

My first few weeding sessions each spring are followed by a day or two of hideous back pain whenever I try to sit down or lie down or get back up. Stooping, crouching, and kneeling are completely out of the question, and the slightest effort to do any of these evokes moans and shouts that scare the cats.

The other day I bent down to put food in the cats' dishes and couldn't straighten up. Moaning and groaning, I finally managed to lie down flat on the floor, take many deep breaths, and wiggle over to a wall of cupboards so that I could hang onto something while getting up. Lying on the floor, completely helpless, for that short time was an eyeopener. In addition to being horrendously painful, it made me furious that I don't mop the floor more often. Hilarious!

Is this a case of using the wrong technique, or is it simply a matter of suddenly using certain muscles again after not using them for several months in winter? In either case, I need a solution. Is there anything I should be doing after these early weeding sessions? Are there special stretching exercises I should be doing, for instance, or should I use an ice pack on my lower back when I come back inside?
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Apr 6, 2014 7:14 PM CST
I think each person is different, but I know of nothing that will put my back out faster that weeding. Exercise everyday, is the best solution for me, staying active keeps me going. Sitting for any length of time causes me to get stiff and sore. Of course pulling weeds does that also. I have found for me I can pull weeds by just bending over at the waist for a pretty good while, then I end up on one knee, that kills my hips, so I go down on both knees for a while, finally end up practically laying down pulling them and then realize I have been at it too long. Stretching I thought was what I needed to do, but the more I did the worse I got, massage helped, stretching knotted up muscles just makes them sore, from my experience! Maybe massage, warm baths and then possibly some light stretching everyday might help. Just a suggestion, Aleve tablets help me a lot, and once my back goes out nothing helps more that a muscle relaxer and a few days rest to at least get me to the walking stage again.
[Last edited by Seedfork - Apr 6, 2014 7:18 PM (+)]
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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Apr 6, 2014 7:23 PM CST

Plants Admin

Thanks, Seedfork. Glad to know I'm not the only one. The latest medical research cautions against a few days rest, by the way. As painful as it might be, we're supposed to get up and at least attempt to take a walk every half-hour or so.

I've been making the rounds of all the medical sites for lower back pain treatment. Smiling I also learned that sleeping on your stomach is the worst thing to do when you have lower back pain. Lying on your back is best, and sleeping on your side is second best.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 6, 2014 7:26 PM CST
Zuzu, my back cramps up after about 10 minutes of any sort of stooping, or other weeding-related motion. If I overdo it, I know a hot bath is the way to undo the spasms. Medicine doesn't work at all unless I take a muscle relaxant and that puts me straight to sleep for 12 hours . . impossible.

I solved the problem of being able to weed by sitting on a big exercise ball - you know, the kind they have at the gym for doing abs and such. Wal-Mart has them for about $10 to $18 depending on what size you want. It's soft and comfy and I can roll it along on any surface to move. I have two sizes, in fact, a 20in. and a 30 in. but I can't use the smaller one for very long because I'm too scrunched down. The big one lets me weed in comfort for quite a while.

Tell you the truth, I still don't do nearly enough weeding, but when I do I'm comfortable, both then and afterwards. It helps to gently stretch out after I get up, too. I don't have the winter hiatus that you do, my garden needs weeding year 'round, sadly. But it probably keeps me in shape a little bit to do it.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Apr 6, 2014 7:31 PM CST
Well, I should have been a been clearer on that, I did not actually mean to stay in bed all day for a few days, I meant not doing anything to stress the already strained back muscles ( I have been known to do something crazy like trying to go back out and pull more weeds thinking it would help) believe it or not in some other cases of sore muscles repeating what caused the soreness in the first place actually did relieve the pain (didn't work with weeding). I agree, laying around for several days and not getting up is not good!
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Apr 6, 2014 7:49 PM CST
No, you are not alone. Zuzu. Did you know the simple task of raking is considered one of the most energy-using activities in the yard? As much as we love gardening it is hard work! Spring time awakens muscles we haven't used much in the previous winter. And sometimes those muscles are not happy about it at all. Stretching before you go outside to play helps. I take 2 ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc) before I go out. I usually work 4 hours at a time. so after my shower I take 2 or 3 more ibuprofen. That and a good night's sleep seems to squelch the inflammation enough so I can at least move the next day. The stiffness the next day, however, I haven't been able to conquer except for going right back out and go at it again. But that only adds to what I have already strained. It's a vicious circle. I would gladly appreciate any hints for that.
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Apr 6, 2014 8:22 PM CST
At the risk of sounding like a shill for Gardeners Supply, this is one of the best solutions for weeding pain I've found:
http://www.gardeners.com/Deluxe-Tractor-Scoot/40-131,default...
I have one of these and I love it! Even if you can't weed while sitting on it, you can rest between weeding spots. Made a big improvement for me.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 6, 2014 8:40 PM CST
A nice long soak in an Epsom Salts bath. Also, if you're having spasms then ice, ice, ice for the first 12 - 24 hrs. followed by alternating ice & moist heat & gentle stretches to keep the blood supply flowing. Witch hazel truly does work wonders for sore, overdone muscles, bruises, strains, sprains. Keep bathing the area with it. I will soak a washcloth with witch hazel & hold it on the area for 5 or 10 minutes at the time. Witch hazel is cheap too.

Truly though, I think the best thing is to prevent this from happening. Starting in winter do some stretching exercises & as ridiculous as it sounds, things like the "Sit & Be Fit" exercises to prepare for spring. When you get out there, take breaks every 15 or 20 minutes. Stand up, bend over & touch your toes, stretch the kinks out, walk around a bit & let the blood flow back into parts that have been cut off.

Said the kettle to the pot. Whistling
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
Clematis Irises Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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zuzu
Apr 6, 2014 8:49 PM CST

Plants Admin

Elaine, I might look into those muscle relaxants just for the side effect. I'd kill to get 12 hours of sleep. I haven't been able to get more than 4 or 5 hours for the last month. The ball wouldn't work for me. Most of my weeds are growing between bushes (most of which are thorny roses), where there isn't even enough room for a kneeling pad. I mostly have to stand, sometimes on only one foot, and bend way over to reach the weeds, or crouch down and reach through the bushes to get the weeds. You'd be amazed how often my hair gets combed by rose thorns while I'm getting back up. Crying

Seedfork, sounds like you know what you're doing. You seem to have tried everything and discarded the bad solutions.

Cheryl, it's funny you'd mention raking because I did lots and lots of raking the day before my worst episode. Ibuprofen's my drug of choice too. Smiling

Woofie, the scoot won't work any better than Elaine's ball for me for weeding because of the spaces where my weeds are located, but it could be good for other tasks, such as deadheading the roses, or pruning small shrubs. Thanks for the link. I tip my hat to you.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
Clematis Irises Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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zuzu
Apr 6, 2014 8:51 PM CST

Plants Admin

We cross-posted, Ann, but thanks for the good ideas. I do have some Epsom salts left over from the spring Clematis applications, so I'll take an Epsom bath tonight.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
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chelle
Apr 7, 2014 6:53 AM CST
I had a lower back injury when I was a child; to the point that for many months afterward, the only way I could get any sleep at all was on the floor. While working my way through that situation, over the course of many years, I've learned a few shortcuts to save time on pain reduction-before working stretches. For me, it starts before I rise; even getting out of bed wrong can bring on an episode. Take a day and think about your back throughout the entirety of it. Learn where stretches can be incorporated into the most mundane of chores/actions and eventually you will be able design a stretching routine that becomes habitual, and that eventually can become automatic.

One of the best adaptations I've been using lately is to do my morning wake-up ritual at a hip-high countertop. While I'm having coffee and checking in with ATP, I'll do leg extensions in every possible direction, using the countertop and my elbows to support my upper body. Using the countertop as support will help to lessen the risk of initial over-extension which can be worse than doing nothing at all. Try to lift and hold the leg to a height that's comfortable by using just the muscles of your hip and back -do a slow count hold to whatever number seems comfortable -maybe 10 or 15 to start -then exhale and extend and really stretch your entire leg like you're trying to touch the wall with your toes, while allowing the rest of your body to stretch back with the leg as you extend. Then follow with the same leg in the exact opposite direction. Repeat in every direction possible. When finished do a slow rise-to-standing-tall, and reach for the ceiling...exhale. A couple of cross-body elbows-to-the-ceiling stretches and you should be (safely) flexible enough to try to reach the ground.

I won't bend to the floor for anything until I've at least done this much, unless I've forgotten the risk. Whistling

As mentioned in previous posts...yes, make sure to take periodic assessments while gardening and take timeouts for stretching. Do a chore that's the reverse of what you were doing for a while; if stooping to weed, do something that requires you to reach up...etc. Alternating your usage really helps!

These exercises, (used very moderately) can help even once the back is flaming. Alternate with cold packs and utilize both several times a day...or as time allows.

I don't think there's any escaping the soreness of extended stooping, of course, but the incidences of tweaks that literally put us on the floor in agony can usually be lessened by stretching beforehand...and it only has to share the time you'd spend to drink a cup of coffee.

I have to add that I'd always wondered how you weeded all those roses, Zuzu. I'm full of admiration for all you've done, and still are doing! Hope this helps. Smiling

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Name: Betty
MN zone 4
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daylilydreams
Apr 7, 2014 9:31 AM CST
I exercise using a Malibu Pilates Chair doing pilates has made a huge difference in my core strength and my balance. There was a learning curve (mine came with DVD's) but I stayed with it and will continue using this for the rest of my life. I am a senior who has had her share of back problems. My younger sisters complain about their aches and pains while I encourage them to give pilates a try, one has finally purchased her chair but has yet to put it to use. No I am not trying to sell pilates just want to make people aware this type of exercise. Take a look at online videos to get an idea of this type of exercise.

I use a kneeling bench to which I added a thick kneeling pad to give more cush to my knees the handles on the bench help you get up easily. I have used this bench for years since I herniated a disc in my back. Since I have been doing pilates I can easily squat and get up even without the bench. I also have the tool holder for the bench makes it handy to keep them nearby.
http://www.leevalley.com/en/Garden/page.aspx?p=45632&cat=2,4...
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Apr 7, 2014 9:50 AM CST
I take a really got bath in my jetted tub before bed so that the muscles are relaxed when I rest overnight. If I am still sore the next morning I take another one before I start the day. This helps me more than any pills, or creams I have tried. I also see a chiropractor if I think I have pulled something out. That is the best thing I have ever did to relieve pain. I could not live without those visits.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 7, 2014 12:23 PM CST
I agree with Ann on the Epsom Salts, it's surely for people too. My arthritic hands and feet just love the hot Epsom Salts bath.

I got Tylenol up in Canada that has a muscle relaxant in it. Down here it's by Rx only but up there it's over the counter. Canada's a bit more progressive on releasing drugs from prescription requirements, they had ibuprofen over the counter years before we did. But as I said above the anti-inflammatories don't help with my back pain anyway because it's caused by muscle spasms not inflammation.

How about trying some non-toxic spray weed killers like vinegar solution? If you can kill 'em from a distance, you won't have to reach between the rose bushes for them.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Apr 7, 2014 12:53 PM CST

Plants Admin

I don't think vinegar meets my definition of non-toxic. Hilarious! The weeds are so close to my plants that the vinegar would affect the plant foliage too. Besides, I'm not sure that dying weeds look any better than live ones in a garden bed. I've used vinegar on the weeds in the pathways. They died down, looked awful, and then grew right back, as vigorous as ever. I think vinegar only kills the top growth and doesn't kill the roots effectively. I'm afraid there's no getting around the need to pull weeds.

Chelle, I really appreciate the detailed stretch instructions. You're doing ballet stretches. I did those for years decades ago. Maybe they're still in my muscle memory. Smiling
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 7, 2014 1:42 PM CST
zuzu said:

Chelle, I really appreciate the detailed stretch instructions. You're doing ballet stretches. I did those for years decades ago. Maybe they're still in my muscle memory. Smiling


I was thinking that as I was reading her instructions. Great exercises for anyone. Thumbs up

Zuzu, this doesn't have to do with your original post but I've been thinking about you & those rose thorns. It wouldn't be a bad idea for you to get a sturdy stick or wooden dowl to use in the garden. I can't seem to get this mental image out of my mind of you leaning over, 1 leg in the air, arabesque style, to go after a weed & then loosing your balance & go tumbling into those nasty thorns. You could use the stick as a stabilizer, keeping 1 hand on it.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
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ShadyGreenThumb
Apr 7, 2014 1:54 PM CST
My husband uses a garden tool that has an extendable handle. It is 2 ft long and extends to full size. It is like a fork on one side and a flat spade(?) on the other. He has been able to help me weed with it. He is able to reach into tight spaces and reach farther than he is able. That might help you @zuzu get into those prickly places without bending as much and getting nicked?
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
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chelle
Apr 7, 2014 3:56 PM CST
zuzu said:
Chelle, I really appreciate the detailed stretch instructions. You're doing ballet stretches. I did those for years decades ago. Maybe they're still in my muscle memory. Smiling


Hilarious! I certainly don't feel like a ballerina, especially first thing in the morning, but those stretches sure do seem to keep me out of trouble.

Hope you feel better soon. Smiling



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Name: Jacquie (JB) Berger
Wrightstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)

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JB
Apr 8, 2014 11:33 AM CST
woofie said:At the risk of sounding like a shill for Gardeners Supply, this is one of the best solutions for weeding pain I've found:
http://www.gardeners.com/Deluxe-Tractor-Scoot/40-131,default...
I have one of these and I love it! Even if you can't weed while sitting on it, you can rest between weeding spots. Made a big improvement for me.


I my age I need all the help I can get. Rolling my eyes. I have one of these too and I love it. I must agree, I can not weed sitting on it but I too rest on it and I love the little bucket mine has on the back. The handle is tricky but you get used to it. It has made weeding much easier.

@zuzu maybe you can remember to stretch a bit before you weed. Get the old muscles moving before you put them to the task. It really makes a difference.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Apr 8, 2014 11:58 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Over the years I have accumulated a good number of weeding tools, and while most of my tools work great, I have a few favorites. Most of them are "hands and knees" type tools, but my favorite tool for weeding while standing is the swan neck hoe. I have this exact one:

http://www.gardeners.com/Gardeners-Lifetime-Half-Moon-Hoe/85...

It's expensive ($80) but very high quality. It comes nice and sharp and it slices through the weed roots with ease, unless the weeds have gotten really big and tough. For weeding small weeds that have recently germinated, it is practically effortless.

Earlier this spring I bought one of these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002CSZ3NM/ and it has become my favorite tool of them all, but it's a hands and knees tool.
[Last edited by dave - Apr 8, 2014 12:17 PM (+)]
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