Gardeners are always looking for tools that make gardening easier. Fads come and go; tools come in and are quickly forgotten, gathering dust in the shed. Whatever a label says, whatever the claims, the act of gardening or any repetitive action will put your body under stress. We wear out and there is beauty, albeit a strange beauty, in this. I would never have become a gardener if seven years ago a disc in my back blew. I am not writing that in a melodramatic flourish, my consultant, my GP, both used that word as if a small explosion has happened against my spine and flattened it. For several years I found it difficult to walk without sticks and I was confined to a wheelchair when I went shopping. I couldn’t reach my feet for six months. I turned to gardening to build up my strength and seven years later, through sheer bloody mindedness I can walk without a walking stick on good days. I have dropped four stone in weight and in the right light, lying down; I have the whisper of a six pack. I was fortunate that I had a progressive GP who told me to get gardening. As he pointed out seven years ago the many jobs you do in the garden keep you supple and mean that you are not always in one position. He banned me from sitting at a computer all day, the culprit for the blowing disc and a ticking time bomb that most of us are unaware could be the side effect of sitting at a desk and PC for too long. There are still things I cannot do and there are things I shouldn’t do. I do not lift and do not start gardening without stretching first. Therefore, I am always annoyed when manufacturers of gardening tools tell us all that their new tool will save the gardener time, save our backs and save our sanity. They miss two of the most important points, when you’re in the garden you don’t want to save time and secondly, that gardening keeps you sane. This is a clinical fact. Gardening though does not save your back or joints but it does wonders for your health.
One tool I did use at the start was a lumbar support, and though I do not lift, I do still use them on bad days in the garden. So I was delighted to throw out my old support and try out the Heavy Task Core Lumbar Active Support from Vertibax which comes in four sizes (http://vertibax.co.uk/).
I still use back supports when digging and though I do not endorse wearing them twenty four seven, I do see the important role that they play in my gardening life and the life of other people. The Vertibax differs from my past supports as it includes a series of ribs that support your lower back. Rather than these being stiff, akin to wearing a corset, which some supports mimic, the ribs are flexible and the material the support is made of doesn’t make you sweat as you work. It is surprisingly comfortable and after fifteen minutes in the garden I had forgotten I was wearing one. In the case of some supports I have found that I end up with a sweat rash, a sticky feeling around my stomach and back that inhibits my gardening and movements. In the past, some of my supports have acted like a portable sauna, leaving sweat patches around my mid drift. I was delighted to find that the Vertibax didn’t do this with me; it was made of a light and breathable material that quickly moulded to my back. I found the Vertibax fit snugly to my lower spine cupping the sides of my spine and was easy to put on and take off. It was easy to use in a number of jobs around the garden from digging to light weeding. It gave me that extra support as I stretched across beds and allowed me to move with ease. It did not make me feel like I was moving like a robot and though I wouldn’t wear a support everyday, I will reach for this one when I dig over the plot this autumn.