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I am interested in developing a permaculture system. Has anyone done this with some measure of back pain? I have some after an amount of strenuous activity. After the initial setup, is there much I have to be concerned about?
 
pollinator
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I have a herniated disc. Something i have lived with for years. The best thing i did was lose about 30 pounds. It didn't solve it, but its better.

Swimming is probably my second best. Just to get gravity out of the way for a bit seems to help.

My third is a tins machine. Very inexpensive.  It numbs the area with pulses of electrical shocks. Great for short term remedy.

Oh, a doctor had told me to move billfold out of my back pocket. The uneveness is not good if you sit or drive a lot.

Hope that helps.
 
wayne fajkus
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Sorry, i thought you asked about a permie method of pain relief.

The only thing that really kills my back is my skid steer. I use it to unload hay, dig swales, its also a fotklift for me. That thing throws me around like i am riding a bull. It set me back hard, but i was on it 5 hours a day for 3 or 4 days.

Everything else is manageable. Planting trees and plants. Digging up blackberry shoots and planting them somewhere else. Im currentlly setting posts for 100 yard fence (using auger attachment on tractor but have to dig out rocks by hand), hand unloading hay bales, mulching, changing tractor implements, etc etc
 
pollinator
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Garden work is always hard on the back the only thing you can do is to do your streches every time after getting in the house.
 
wayne fajkus
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Its not uncommon for me to be on all 4 when working on the ground, especially toward the end of the day.  There may be some grunts as I get up.  But in the end, i am doing what i want to be doing.

You also learn to smart your way thru things.  Step back and think about how to get it done. Using a pipe as leverage. A carden cart to move mulch around, etc. A cordless electric weedeater vs crank start or a scythe. Etc.
 
pollinator
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I have a bad back, injured during childbirth. Some activities are harder on my back than others, but skill and techniques make it easier. My twenty-something kids don't know how to efficiently dig a hole for a tree, so their brawn only technique will take 15 minutes or so, I can get one in the ground in 5.

But the single best advice I have for this is to change activities frequently, alternating standing and sitting activities, and listen to your body. You're not going to be able to get anything done the next day if you can't get out of bed.
 
pollinator
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I have dealt with back pain from adolescence. Stretches and exercises to counter predominant regular muscle use are pretty much the only thing that keeps me from locking up.

As to design, I like raised beds with keyhole access points (those can, at need, be designed to facilitate wheelchair access) that minimise bending or leaning in too far when planting, tending, or harvesting. I also like including a hugelbeet and lasagna-gardening approach and a heavy woodchip mulch on top to help with long-term soil structure, fertility, and water retention. This decreases the need for constant watering and weeding, as the mulch will shade-out germinating weeds and cut down on wind dessication.

There are many elements of permacultural design that can be tweaked for mobility issues and ease of access, and I have often thought about permaculture as a whole as a design system that stresses much input at the outset, with ever-decreasing levels of input necessary to maintain the system, to the point where it sustains itself in the absence of humans. In fact, many systems that I have seen examples of require maintenance only to increase the quantity of production.

Or, to put it another way, Paul often states that permaculture is his way to set things up so he "...can be even lazier."

I think permaculture is a great retirement plan.

-CK
 
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I did get the occasional flash of pain up the spine last year, started doing these basic yoga moves, ten times to the toes breath out, ten times fingers in the sky and then hang off of something for a minute and wiggle gently. That helped a lot.
Lost a lot of weight,14 kg or 31 pounds, low carb and lots and lots of salad so I should be a bit better for the year.
I do have pain in my hips and knees at times and discovered that rosemary oil helps a lot! Science proven grandma right. Cheap to make, just fill a jar with rosemary leaves and sunflower oil and wait a few weeks. Keep it airtight and the rosemary under the oil to avoid mold. I did it with muslin cloth and a well placed stone. But that made a huge difference when applied before sleep. It doesn't cure, it works like this, the rosemary opens the capillaries so blood flows a lot better and gets rid of all the wastes, so the muscles are fresh and oxygenated to support the old worn out joints better. It helped my sceptical neighbour avoid an operation, but doesn't work for everybody...Rosemary relieves the pain but don't go crazy after! The problem is not gone. The problem is mechanical and is different for everybody, could be worn out joints/discs or arthritis.
Take your time to finish big projects, build muscles up doing different things in the garden, don't have your back exposed to cold air (builders bum), nor a t-shirt wet by sweat, that cool air is killing, get your partner massaging or do it yourselves, roll your fingers over the muscles will get blood flowing.
I work with an electrician that has a lot of aches and pains, but he claims he is a million times better then when he was a civil servant leading a sitting life.
 
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I am a big proponent of massage therapy for pain. Finding the right therapist can be a challenge sometimes though. The right one can be life changing. Also i found the classical stretch videos are great self help pain relief. And simple, DIY muscular back pain relief can be had by putting 2 tennis balls in a sock and lying on them on a carpeted floor, scooching back an forth on them with one tennisball on each side of the spine...
 
Phil Clove
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So; stretches, electroshock, and massages: seems obvious, I should've guessed as much. Though, I am happy to know that I won't be the only one; this gives me the sense that establishing a permaculture system is within my abilities. Thanks, everyone!
 
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In addition to the things already mentioned, I really like deliberate core-strengthening activities. For me, those tend to be "planks", performed facing up, down, and on each side. With more flexibility and strength, aches and pains in my core tend to be fewer.

Additionally, I choose to eat a low-inflammatory diet to minimize aches and pains. For me that involves avoiding omega-6 oils (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sunflower, safflower, walnut), eating more omega-3 oils (fish, flax, chia), Eating turmeric, and ginger (with black pepper). Eating colorful fruits and vegetables. Avoiding foods that commonly cause inflammation to people such as wheat, deep-fried foods, grains, sugar, and dairy. Limiting exposure to chemicals in foods, perfumes, and cleaning supplies.
planks.gif
[Thumbnail for planks.gif]
Planks: Facing down, up, and sideways
 
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Phil Clove wrote:I am interested in developing a permaculture system. Has anyone done this with some measure of back pain? I have some after an amount of strenuous activity. After the initial setup, is there much I have to be concerned about?



in 1976 I broke my back ejecting from my F4J, I always have pain but I still set up my farm and even now I haul bales of hay and straw every few weeks. The key is to be conscious of what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Legs are for lifting, feet are for turning, back is kept as straight (in line) as possible.
We have gardens that are raised bed, in ground beds and I move hogs around, feed them and chickens, build buildings and all the other fun to me farm stuff, including cutting trees and butchering.
Think and plan the layout so you will not have to put yourself in a compromising position when planting, harvesting or any of the other necessary things that have to be done on a farm.  
It's more about attitude for me, I am not going to give in or up, I will get this done, maybe not as fast as anyone else, but it will get done.

For those of us that must live with pain, a good mapped out plan of attack is the best tool we can have.

Redhawk
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:For those of us that must live with pain, a good mapped out plan of attack is the best tool we can have.



Jacks, levers, pulleys, inclined planes, come-alongs, wheels, etc are good to use on the farm, even by those without back pain.
 
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I actually find the physical activity in the garden/mini-wannabe-farm helps my back. My back is worse when I'm sitting for long periods of time. I try to do a variety of movements on a given day. So rather than shoveling all my compost one day, and weeding the whole garden the next, I'll shovel a couple loads, then weed for a while, and then do different stuff the next day if I'm able. I've had back pain as long as I can remember, though mine is a bit atypical in that it's in my middle/upper back. It's from disc degeneration, though it's been really stable over my life, maybe because my ribs hold that part of my spine together fairly well, but the pain is almost always there to some extent.

I'm also really focusing on tree crops - mostly chestnuts and hazelnuts. Once they're established, I'll get food without having to plant as much every year.

I also enjoy learning about herbs that can help with what ails me. My back pain has brought me closer to Solomon's seal, cayenne, turmeric, and mostly cbd cannabis.

The hardest time on my back is the winter, because I'm mostly inside and am less active (and probably low on vitamin D, working on that). Shoveling snow seems to take a lot more effort than shoveling compost somehow, and we just got 19 inches of it!
 
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Jason, you said what I just was going to post!  My back does much better if I keep on moving. My worst back pain actually happened when I was working a sitting secretarial job full time in my late 20's.  I got out the chair wrong, wrenched my back and was in pain in the bed for a week.

I am in my 60's, a 5'0" little old lady, and just starting my food forest.  The biggest thing is that most of my earthwork is best done right now when the ground is moist.  It turns to cement during the summer.  At least where I hadned wood chipped yet.

I also just started keeping my horses on my own property.  I used to board them so someone else was manhandling the bales and feeding my horses.  Now I go pick up my own hay.  Sure, they load it fine at the feed store, but I have to unload and stack it myself.  We are talking 100+ lbs. 3 string Western bales.  So I learned to tip them onto a hand truck, tip it over, build up my stack in stages so I can flip the bale over to get it into place.  I also don't stack them more than 3 high.  I can't use hay hooks because I don't have enough arm and hand strength to pick up a bale that way.  I can stack my 16 bales, but anything more than that I lose interest, more than wearing my body out.   So learning to use physics in your favor is key.

Weeding by hand, hoeing, pruning, planting etc...  I just do it in small chunks at a time. Put up a metal staked wire fence by myself using a post pounder.  Made my own redwood planked raise beds.  It keeps me moving without stressing my body out.  I have had gout attacks where my whole body suffers from pain and lack of movement.  Just have to watch and eat cleaner to keep the gout away otherwise it's a downward spiral of losing muscle tone.  I am missing an ACL in my left knee, and my right hip is kinda out of whack because of a slight scioliosis in my back.  I am lucky enough to have a good accupuncturist that had also studied Asian martial arts and the associated bonesetting (don't tell the chiropractic board).  Seeing her once in awhile helps me keep my wheels aligned.  Also the more I ride my horses, the less my left knee tricks out and my back feels better because it improves my core strength.

I'm just coming out of a temporary funk where all my adrenals were drained by a major house move, a loss of my cousin and father all in the same week in 2012 after a couple years of stressfull parental care.  I lost my favorite horse two years after that and my new horse gave me a case of PTSD so my normal stress relieving trail riding habits went away for awhile.  People started to really get on my nerves so I became a hermit for awhile.  But time and space heals, and I'm crawling out of that funk.

I am really happy that I finally have my own place where I could live my permie dreams.  I got my first dog since childhood, and enjoying time with him, but that meant I had to work on getting my garden fenced off from his marauding behavior!  I planted pears, apples, peaches, hazelnuts, currants and a bunch of citrus trees all in gopher cages.  This year my goal is a raised bed in a small part of my property that doesn't frost for avocados and building a chicken coop next to it.  The avo's will shade the chickens during the summer, and the chickens will warm the avo's during the winter.  I was going to plant more bare root trees this year, but opted not to so that I could get caught up on the avocado and chicken coop projects.  I was getting bad about buying plants and not putting them in the ground quick enough, so I gotta work more on infrastructure instead.
 
pollinator
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Sorry you're having back pain here, and there are some good fixes here.  Best suggestion so far, Be conscious of what you are doing and how you are doing it.

That can be taken to a whole art.  I have an open source somatic education article that includes a practice you can do with two friends where you help one another find better coordination.

F. M. Alexander was the Bill Mollison of the self.  The way you do what you do is something you can study using permaculture principles.  Observe, observe, observe.  It's also helpeful to have a "kinesthetic (movement) mirror"--you can use a tree or the top of a loft bed, anything that is about head height and sticks out: stand with the back of your head where it is and feel where you are in space.  Notice your movements (micro-movements), and ask yourself where you can allow reflex support to move you up in gravity vs. using voluntary muscle.  

This is the lazy way of moving.  A factory in Switzerland (Victorinox) used this to increae productivity by %40, and reduce worker injuries.  

There's nothing mystical about this, it's all common sense, what you can observe for yourself, but you have to be looking.  Same as with a garden, the garden of the self has its own pattern language, its own edge effects, its own interrelatedness of parts, its own flows.  Its easy to overlook since our eyes point outward instead of inward, when there's pain it's usually because the zones within are asking for our attention.  Fixes are like conventional or organic farming, in my view, whereas not causing the problem in the first place is Fukuoka-like.  By the time it's pain, it's too late, in a sense, though it's never too late to stop doing what doesn't work and allow nature's design to work through us more.

You can learn more about Alexander's discoveries on the internet and I started a thread about this subject a while ago.  
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I have a bad back, injured during childbirth. Some activities are harder on my back than others, but skill and techniques make it easier. My twenty-something kids don't know how to efficiently dig a hole for a tree, so their brawn only technique will take 15 minutes or so, I can get one in the ground in 5.

But the single best advice I have for this is to change activities frequently, alternating standing and sitting activities, and listen to your body. You're not going to be able to get anything done the next day if you can't get out of bed.



Stacy what’s your trick for that fast efficient hole-digging?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Yes, there's a lot of truth to "legs are for lifting," etc., but I would quibble about keeping your back straight.  Our spines should never actually be straight--if it is, you're in a serious medical crisis.  The spine curves, everything in nature curves.  Bending at the "waist" (lower back) to replace the movement of hips, knees, and ankles is not what I'm talking about, but the back is a process not an entity.  

I'm curious what happens if you try allowing a tiny smidge more freedom between your head and your spine (at your neck), and see if you can feel the small movements of your back in activities like walking or bending  (I wouldn't suggest trying this while lifting something heavy, but just see what you can sense if you explore the movement).  

Bryant RedHawk wrote:

Phil Clove wrote:I am interested in developing a permaculture system. Has anyone done this with some measure of back pain? I have some after an amount of strenuous activity. After the initial setup, is there much I have to be concerned about?

Sorry you had that accident! I hope you do find freedom from the pain someday.



in 1976 I broke my back ejecting from my F4J, I always have pain but I still set up my farm and even now I haul bales of hay and straw every few weeks. The key is to be conscious of what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Legs are for lifting, feet are for turning, back is kept as straight (in line) as possible.
We have gardens that are raised bed, in ground beds and I move hogs around, feed them and chickens, build buildings and all the other fun to me farm stuff, including cutting trees and butchering.
Think and plan the layout so you will not have to put yourself in a compromising position when planting, harvesting or any of the other necessary things that have to be done on a farm.  
It's more about attitude for me, I am not going to give in or up, I will get this done, maybe not as fast as anyone else, but it will get done.

For those of us that must live with pain, a good mapped out plan of attack is the best tool we can have.

Redhawk

 
Dado Scooter
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Joshua, you are correct that the spine is inherently curved, however I don't think Redhawk is entirely incorrect either.  The part he says about keeping the back straight is inferring not to twist or bend where the spine is more vulnerable to displacement.

I was taught a method of riding called "Centered Riding".  It was developed by a woman who had severe scioliosis, but she was able to take Alexander Technique, Feldenkreis and Chinese martial arts principles into a system where  balance, relaxation and body awareness.  Learning where the center of balance and energy is can do a lot to make one more effective and have less injuries.  It's a process not learned overnight, and always room for more discovery. I have very superficial knowledge of those systems, but whatever I dabbled in was really helpful.

I have been trained in craniosacral therapy for humans and horses.  So yes, you are spot on about the junction between the head and the neck is important to "create space."  I made up a little exercise that I share:

Tuck your chin in and round the neck backwards slightly where it attaches to the cranium (equivalent to the horse's poll).  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.
Stick your chin out and tilt your head back.  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.

If you have body awareness at all you would find that you are indeed more mobile with that occiput and cervical junction open.

Craniosacral therapy is marvelous for removing emotional and physical restrictions.  It is somewhat passive and related to somatic techniques and is a good healing modality.  However, learning more active body awareness techniques  mentioned throughout this forum will probably be more applicable to keeping your body from injury.  It doesn't have to be too academic.  Just listen to your body.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks for your post, Dado. Glad you find value in ongoing investigation of movement. There is no upper limit to how satisfying and effective and easy movement can become.

I agree that basically keeping one's back from bending unnecessarily when lifting is helpful, and I would add that it will not bend if you don't interfere with the most natural (maybe not habitual but natural) movement.  Children squat and lift things with their legs, only frantic older people do otherwise.  At the same time though +thinking+ of the back as flat is likely to induce one to unnecessary holding.  We move in accordance with our conception of our design, and there is value in looking at how our spines are actually shaped, feeling your actual spine.  Try it.

As for putting one's chin down, I would amend this to be in the dynamic of non-doing rather than doing.  Fukuoka's discovery (which was about everything, not just farming) was that we need do nothing.  Alexander discovered that "when we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing does itself." (I prefer "when we stop doing what interferes," or "the familiar thing").  If you allow your neck to be free to the extent that it is possible at this given moment, so your head can rebalance itself on top of your spine, so you can move downward into you support and upward in the world, so you can take in your environment as well as yourself, this is a way of allowing reflexive postural muscle to move you up in gravity.  No need to help it with voluntary muscle.  Look at how a giraffe moves, it has a lot more load to carry and it does it with ease and grace. More complicated to say this than to allow it to happen.  It can happen integrated into our movements.  But getting there is tricky--unlearning lot of flawed assumptions and illusions we've bought into.  Non-doing is the way to explore, not a bunch of new doings.  Inevitably as we learn new ways of moving we will slip into doings, but we can consciously explore non-doing.  Doing poses, even exercising to try to increase core muscle, is pretending to know how to do nature's job better than it can. I'm not saying never do exercises, but I'm saying the way you do anything is more impactful, for better or worse, than simply changing the what.

I encourage folks here to take the same approach of rethinking everything, questioning assumptions and conventional "knowledge", and observing with an open mind.  Ask how it can be easier.  In my training, one of my teachers said students in their second year always ask, "Can it be this easy?" And the teachers always have to say, "Yes, it can."  What does a permaculture design approach to the self (bodymind self) look like? Feel like? Where is there better leverage? Where have we been working at cross purposes with nature? Where have we been attacking symptoms when we could be finding out how to cease creating the problems in the first place?

Even if you don't have a tree handy to use as a reference point, or a friend to put a hand on the back of your head, you can learn something right now by putting your own hand on the back of your head, feeling where it actually is as compared with where you expect it to be.  Try it.

Is this making sense to anyone? Words mean different things to every different person. Is anyone trying some experiments?  Please post your experiences!  Thanks.

Joshua

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Dado Scooter wrote:i  I made up a little exercise that I share:

Tuck your chin in and round the neck backwards slightly where it attaches to the cranium (equivalent to the horse's poll).  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.
Stick your chin out and tilt your head back.  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.

If you have body awareness at all you would find that you are indeed more mobile with that occiput and cervical junction open.
y.



Dado, can you clarify, is this an experiment for developing awareness, or something you would do regularly?  Thanks
 
Dado Scooter
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Joshua, the exercise I described is merely an awareness exercise.  You are right that if you allow the body to be free and in "nondoing" is optimal.  Notice that I said tuck chin IN, not DOWN.  Tucking the chin in and rounding the back of the head allows the atlas to support the cranium more freely.  If your chin sticks out you are restricting the atlas so that the axis is not as free to move.

However, you must have awareness where your body is not in balance.  Often a crooked rider does not know they are crooked.  When they are told how to be more symmetrical in their riding position, they are often feeling out of balance because it doesn't feel habitual to them.  Gradually as one rides in balance you get a new habit, a "new normal" that's more correct.  Once that happens the body doesn't have to work as hard to fight gravity, therefore less energy needs to be expended and compensation patterns dissipate.  The optimal is to have an unconscious competence in keeping the proper balance in motion.  I think this is what you mean?

 
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webpage    

Here's a link to an interseting article . It's a bit awkward to do if you are used to bending over like most of us, but it does help.
 
                                    
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Also look to your clothes/shoes. I found that switching from pants with a belt to overalls took care of 40% of my low back pain. Finding work boots with minimal heel drop, though nearly impossible, took care of another 20%. My co-workers are amazed that my "fashion" choices are actually more powerful than most analgesics by preventing pain.
 
pollinator
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78 years old, became a massage therapist 22 years ago because I could not do the work anymore.  So yes the permaculture principle of making the problem a solution works. being aware that you have potential back pain means you plan to avoid causing back pain. Being my first client and last client each day is important. Once I am functional the best activity is to take my scythe out and mow for a while. The rotational movement of the spine sucks fluid out of the bones into the disks making them thicker and more cushioning alleviating most causes of back pain.

Craniosacral therapy is marvelous for removing emotional and physical restrictions.  It is somewhat passive and related to somatic techniques and is a good healing modality.  However, learning more active body awareness techniques  mentioned throughout this forum will probably be more applicable to keeping your body from injury.  It doesn't have to be too academic.  Just listen to your body.
Dado


Craniosacral means that the skull and pelvis move reciprocally with each other [as well as the vertebra in between] therefore I teach interactive craniosacral. If you find the corner of bone just below the ears [not the jawbone] it moves with the point of bone at the top front corners of the pelvis. Laying on your back with the knees up swing the knees from side to side and feel the movement of the bone under your ears. If under one ear is pulled forward and down the pelvis on that side is pulled up and forward, part of a posture distortion that is holding your spine in a twisted position.
Putting your legs over an exercise ball and swinging them from side to side will have the same effect as my scything. Try stretching the ball by pushing with one leg and pulling with the other. Fallow the movement under the ears until they are balanced.
 
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Hi, .  I am putting in the middle of a long range vision of a permaculture food forest garden, and have had my back go out 4 times since the beginning of it...hardscaping stonework, weeding, and shoveling woodchips did me in.
 Just a couple ideas. This depends on the size of your plot...and possibly your age...and how much money/help you can get or put into it.
 If you have a smaller plot or even just more specifically in zone 1: You might want to consider a modified permaculture system that relies on raised bed planters with a wide ledge around them for working comfortably while sitting. A low maintenance path around said planters would also be a boon.  
Other ideas- keep fruit trees to dwarf size, and prune them so the branches angle more down for ease of picking.  Mulch, mulch, and more mulch! Weeding is the bane of a bad back. Keep your focus lower with vines that you plan on harvesting from also. I know this means losing part of your vertical space, but if you can't garden because you strained your back on the ladder while getting grapes or apples...well...it's all about trade-off isn't it?  If you want to get woodchips for mulch, buying them bagged is a better option for the back than shoveling them into a wheelbarrow...same for dirt or compost...if you have to buy it.
Minimizing work that requires bending/twisting motions with the back is key. Like an earlier poster said about knees for lifting...
A permaculture garden with a touchy back is totally doable...but might need a bit of a different focus. Hope it goes well for you!
 
Dado Scooter
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Kat Ostby wrote:Hi, .  
Other ideas- keep fruit trees to dwarf size, and prune them so the branches angle more down for ease of picking.  Mulch, mulch, and more mulch! Weeding is the bane of a bad back. Keep your focus lower with vines that you plan on harvesting from also. I know this means losing part of your vertical space, but if you can't garden because you strained your back on the ladder while getting grapes or apples...well...it's all about trade-off isn't it?  If you want to get woodchips for mulch, buying them bagged is a better option for the back than shoveling them into a wheelbarrow...same for dirt or compost...if you have to buy it.
Minimizing work that requires bending/twisting motions with the back is key. Like an earlier poster said about knees for lifting...
A permaculture garden with a touchy back is totally doable...but might need a bit of a different focus. Hope it goes well for you!



This is exactly what I've been doing in my permaculture orchard, except I didn't buy any bagged material for the orchard at all.  Lifting bags can be tricky too to manage.  I have plenty of aged horse manure from my own horses, cardboard from my move, and wood chips from the tree guys.  I live on silty bottom land that was a former fertile agricultural field, so to import soil would be ridiculous because of what I already have.  I do most of the wheelbarrow work myself and find if I do it consistently my core strength improves over time.   So far, my trees are real young, and unfortunately pruned severely by letting my horses wander the property during the winter rains when their field flooded, otherwise I've been both winter and summer pruning to keep them from getting too large.  It works well because you can have trees planted closer together and get more yield.  The only bagged product I bought was Happy Frog for my large fiber pot plantings.  The good thing about being retired is that you can alleviate the "weekend warrior" aspects of gardening, so you can space out your hard tasks as to not wear your body out.  A stirrup hoe on the mulch is really effective in keeping the weeds down, except of course that darn bindweed!  Better to pull that stuff out by the roots as much as you can, better still, do not let it root!  Where I mulched deep enough I didn't have as much of a bindweed problem, but the edges where I didn't cardboard and mulch deeply was over-run in bindweed.

As long as you bend appropriately, weeding by hand can provide a good back stretch.  The enemy of back health really is lack of PROPER movement.
 
Dado Scooter
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PS... I do hire out for really heavy lifting.  I found a really good Craigslist buy of about 200 blocks of cinder block.... only to find that it was really retaining wall blocks that were really heavy.  I couldn't even lift six of them in one session without strain, so I called some local muscle to help me pick it up and deliver to my property and place them into raised beds.  I need to hire them again because I'm going to reconfigure it to be a pony wall for a future greenhouse with a cobbed north wall, but that's going to be awhile in the future.
 
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I've got two cents that some might find helpful, from a mechanical perspective.

Most rigorously active people have herniated discs or otherwise shredded connective tissue that doesn't seem to heal, the pain doesn't go away.   Scar tissue, in my left knee, lower back, a high dislocated rib on my right side that didn't quite get back into it's ligament fitting.   I'll play the optimistic placebo card and say, it can heal back and be stronger than it was before. It's just that critically shredded connective tissues takes about a decade of flawlessly executed physical therapy and nutrition to pull off the full heal.  If you push that weakest link just a little too hard once, what was going to take 2 weeks to heal, is now going to take 2 months.  Push it way too hard and your back at square one.   Everyone does this, some people learn not to.

With regard to gardening permaculture work, this is almost always lifting and shoveling too much.  The same motion, over, and over and......4-8 hours later, over again.  

This is often like a marathon runner trying to push through the pain and run so many miles without rest, after just a few months of training.   Just a few months of training, after living 20-30 years and rarely if ever running more than 5 miles.  This has a tendency to ruin and consume the connective tissue in your knees.  Not recommended.  However, if you take a decade to slowly work your way up to that many miles, it is possible to run marathons without consuming connective tissues.

Taking to lifting and shoveling 4-8 hours a day, day after day, is more or less the same thing.  Except instead of knees, it's the lower backs.   Thus the reputation for being, "back breaking labor."  

Accused of that, I want to argue back, only if you do it wrong!  It's only "back breaking" if you do too much too fast.  With proper rest and nutrition, it's back building labor!  And now they're rolling their eyes at me.

When starting any new physical pursuit, spend a pain free month doing it for say, an hour, before you raise it up to 90 minutes.  Then another month before going for 2 hours.   The body takes months and years, not weeks, to build itself up to handle new joint stresses in a way that does not result in accumulating deterioration.  

If chronic, persistant, nagging pain appears, stop doing it so much.  If you can manage.  Thus the mental flexibility to give up on and change plans in response to pain is integral to healing.   There's a huge amount of bad backs out there, with the primary fault: what do you mean, stop? No pain no gain.  And now we've failed to get the necessary rest.

I do think the 2nd most important thing I learned with regard to garden work and back pain, is the relationship between compression and it's inverse of being pulled apart, elongation, stretching.  Lets go with stretch.  

The inverse relationship between compression and stretching.

If you bend at the waist to lift something, all the connective tissue on the side of your spine facing your guts is compressed, all the connective tissue on the backside of the spine is stretched.   People often say back pain or "bad back" and do not further develop their understanding.  I think it's often useful to think a little further.  More specifically and most commonly they mean, they have a specific clump of connective tissues in their spine that has been over stressed with compression, back pain for short.

If you lift 100% with your legs, like drop your butt to your heels and stick dat ass out far enough to invert your spine, and then grip and lift an object while maintaining this posture through the entire lift, the compression on the inside of your spine has been mostly relieved, now it's the backside of the spine being mostly compressed.  If you have a disciplined amount of back/shoulder flexibility and take a look at your lifting form in a mirror, you can actually get that line of force that goes from set back shoulders to the heels, to pass right through the lowest vertebrae of your inverted spine.  Congratulations!  The inside of your lower back is now being stretched under lifting, like +10 to back endurance.  Unfortunately objects are commonly unwieldy and do not allow this form, beware.  And even more unfortunately, it is very common for contemporary peeps to have lived in a way that resulted in their lower vertebrate becoming largely ossified in a straight or bent forward position by age 40.   At this point you cannot so invert the forces being applied on your spine while lifting...or maybe you can reverse ossification, I've just never read about it.

I was fortunate enough to have picked up a back bending habit in my early 20's, and only be 30 while being nagged by a healing back injury for the third time in my life. I was surprised to discover a few years back that back bends, bridges, and then light lifting with a highly inverted back, felt good on the most recent injury, even though bending forward with no extra weight was still slightly painful.   I suspect this is because gently stretching out connective tissue injured via over compression, helps it heal.  I am not a physical therapist, just speculating on personal experience.

This front/back compression/stretch thing also goes for less common torque/shear injuries had in left or right handed physical activities.  It was a shoulder injury that got me to try switching sides with a shovel.  After however many hundreds of hours shoveling with my right hand at the back of the shovel and my right foot back, I put my left hand at the back of the shovel and my left foot back. After feeling through the awkward new motion, I found that shoveling left handed was almost a completely new set of muscles.  This resulted in a significant increase in the amount of time I could spend at rigorous shoveling before sensing lower back fatigue.   That's another often overlooked one that can prevent a lot of injuries, sensing an exhaustion in joints that has nothing to do with skeletal muscle or pain.  

You can also rock the bonus to lifting endurance granted by ambidexterity, by moving a loaded 5 gallon bucket held in the left hand, for each one you move held in the right.

Certified Two cents.  Just in case, FYI, happy backs and lifting in the garden!









 
Dado Scooter
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John Mutter, I enjoyed reading your post.  Sounds like you had learned to listen to your body. I think this is the key for long term back health. Listening to your body, balancing stretching, tension and compression.  Work to the edge of your ability, but do not overwork!

Sucks getting older in some ways, in other ways, I enjoy the laziness and working with my own pace!
 
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John Hutter I think your reply was worth at least a dollar, maybe a hundred - haha!   I agree with everything you said as I've been working my way out of a compressed L3 for ten years, then several years of gardening for a living and digging through my new permaculture garden which resulted in severe cramping in my opposite hip and lower back.    I've been researching anatomy and watching a lot of sports therapists and chiropractors on Youtube to learn release technics.   But that's only half of the equation.  The other half is prevention through body mechanics and POSTURE!    I figured out that after the first injury/bout of pain, I stopped standing up straight and was walking like an old lady with my butt out and shoulders forward.   For years I was going outside to work until I could barely walk and breathe, then I'd come in and sit at the computer for hours, then go to bed.    All the wrong things which made it worse.  

So a combination of "Yoga with Erin" (Youtube) in the morning to stretch the psoas muscle out of the "C" position we all live in - (virtually every task in gardening/farming puts us in a stoop or squat or bending over), and reminding myself all day long to follow mother's advice "stand up straight - shoulders back - don't slouch - elbows off the table!   I find that putting my shoulders back automatically corrects the spine.   I pay attention to when my back is starting to feel weary - and change tasks at that point, or just lie on the floor and put my legs up on the wall to get the synovial fluids moving again in my spine, then roll legs left and right on the floor to release the waist muscles - all helps.  

ALSO - exercises to strengthen my upper body have made a huge difference in being able to do the work with my arms and upper abdomen rather than lower back.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Yes, I strongly agree with the "pain is a signal to stop" message here, and taking time to adjust to new activities.  Pushing through connective tissue pain is counterproductive.  Muscle pain, perhaps , can be, but certainly not connective tissue.  And I agree with "think further."  Yes, there is a lot more thinking that needs to happen about these things than I've found in conventional ideas.

But what I'm not hearing in any of these posts, and is not in the chiropractic, yoga as commonly taught, stretching, or posture concepts, is the concept of use, the manner of movement of the self in gravity.  This is a difficult concept to convey in words, it took Alexander four books to get it across and still very few people actually understood it.  But it has clear effects.

If you put your shoulders back and sit up straight, you're doing things that compensate for other things you're already doing.  If you release into the support of the chair, if you do less with your legs and rest more on your pelvis on the chair, then you're allowing your reflex postural muscles to move you up in gravity, rather than _doing_ "good posture."  Cats and herons don't have to be told to sit up straight, they do it naturally.  

If you just stop sticking your butt out and stop pushing your shoulders forward, you'll walk normally.  Or, to put it more gently, if you decline to act on the (now-familiar) impulse to move in that way, a more efficient way of moving will reassert itself.  You learned these ineffective patterns of movement bit by bit over time, or sometimes in quick bouts of adjustment (to attempt to compensate for an injury; people come to learning sessions very frequently still retaining patterns of movement they began when they were nursing an injured foot or other body part and then never fully let go of).  But it's not necessary to do--the language here important--it's only necessary to decline to do.  

Little toddlers walk around extremely upright.  They move like little cats or little herons.  Not quite as poised, perhaps, humans are slower to learn poise than animals, but we do learn poise, and we start out with a pretty good sense of up.  It is only through experiencing a lot of life through a narrowed lense, a good dose of social conditioning, perhaps some scary times, that we learn interfering patterns.  (Indigenous people of the world still move with poise, and you might say their posture is great posture when they are standing.  When they sit they may recline or slouch like anyone else, or crouch to work and do that with poise, or bend at the hips keeping their spines unbent, but they are not "trying to have good posture."  Again, what they have is poise, not posture; it is non-doing, not doing.  They are not told to sit up straight, as far as I can tell.  Since they don't have school rooms but take their education in life and initiation in the bush, they're not scolded to learn a certain way of relating to a seated position.  They are simply going about their lives.  Carrying 70 lbs of water on their heads with one hand is a part of women's lives in the village I visited, and you can see pictures of people using their head this way from many places around the world.  Unless you learn to do your life other than that, that is what's normal.  It takes poise, coordination, ease.  But not doing.  

The parallels to Fukuoka here are obvious.  Instead of looking at what to do about the situation, look at what to non-do.  If non-doing seems to cause problems, don't blame non-doing; like the peach tree that's been raised to be depending on pruning, there may be a transition period back to the strong, wilder state--but that doesn't mean all peach trees are dependent on pruning.  As Fukuoka found, the wild tree that was unpruned from seed was much stronger in the end.  This also reflects another principle Alexander talked about--placing as much attention on the means whereby you do things as on the things you want done.  Fukuoka made the mistake of trying to implement his idea hurriedly, and then learned that it could work only if the way he applied it was unhurried.  

It's really surprising how many people don't know even basic anatomy.  "Put your hands on your hips," someone says, and they put their hands on the iliac crests, the bone that sticks out.  This is not your hip.  It does not have a joint in it.  It is a bone.  People think their diaphragms are in their bellies, that their necks end at their hairlines, that there is such a thing as a back joint and a waist.  These are not facts.  If you study yourself in a mirror and feel out where your anatomy actually is you can see this yourself with complete obviousness and clarity.  But no one does these things.  I was shocked to be almost 40 before I learned even these basic facts about myself.  We don't have shoulder bones!  There is the convergence of clavicle and the "shoulder blade" bone, but there isn't a special shoulder pad bone up there.  These kinds of fictions are understandable if one hasn't really taken the time to look, but as a society it would make sense for us to take the few minutes to look by the time we're adults.  And indeed a LOT of injuries could be prevented this way.

I highly encourage everyone to make your own study of these things.  Observe, observe, observe.  Youtube videos may help, what I'e written here hopefully helps, but it's got to be experience to work truly.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Joshua - I feel like much of what you said resonates with barefoot living and fox walking. My chiropractors and doctors are constantly pushing me to be always wearing shoes with support, and never letting my feet touch the ground. I disagree completely. Those things seem to be keeping everything misaligned. More and more, I listen to my body and not my doctors and experience positive results.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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It occurred to me this morning to offer anyone on permies a free Alexander Technique Use of the Self learning session by video conference or phone if you have read the first four chapters of Frank Pierce Jones's book Body Awareness in Action (also published as Freedom to Change).  It may be at your library.  So, send me a purple moosage and we'll set something up.  I want to support more clear thinking and observing in relation to the self (the psychophysical unity, what most people are calling "the body").  It's much richer to understand this stuff through experience than through written words.  Thanks.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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True.  The thing is, the foot has evolved quite a long time to support you, whereas the shoe is a pretty short-research-time invention.  If you support something you help weaken it, one of our anatomy classes stated.  The instructor had not even heard of the barefoot running book, to my knowledge, but from an anatomy and engineering perspective came to the same conclusion.  

I think we humans are too quick to think we understand something and jump to a solution, whereas permaculture teaches ut to observe more and more fully, and make the smallest possible intervention.  

There are two crossing arches of fascial tissue in the arch of the foot.  The whole foot is shaped so that it has a natural roll from heel to ball for easy running.  (Walking is another story).  When people are "flat footed" what is going on is that they have a tendency to move pronating the ankle, and rotating the hip.  (Few people are aware that you can rotate your hip--unless you dance the Charleston you have very little reason to explore this movement.  But we adjust our hip rotation in the act of walking all the time, whether we are conscious of the fact or not.)

If while standing you try entertaining the thought that you can allow your leg to lengthen ever-so-slightly into your ankle you may be able to sense space to release just a smidge more into your arch's bounce.  I'm talking millimeters here, maybe not even visible to an observer.  

The problem with podiatry and physical therapy as they currently model things is that they are looking at the body as a structure and not as a moving process.  Animators (of cartoons) I suspect, know a lot more about anatomy because they study it in movement.  They have up on the wall pictures of parts--of the foot and ankle--and you need to see the whole.  I went to a PT last summer because an ankle would not heal, but eventually my Alexander teacher solved the problem, not the PT.  She sensed I needed to switch to shoes that tied, and when I stopped wearing the ones that had an elastic band and no tie the problem went away swiftly.  (Even a barefoot-ish shoe can cause problems.  I wish people would keep things simple!  I don't need elastics, I just want a barefoot shoe and laces.  Just a moccasin would be fine.)

It can take awhile to transition, after wearing shoes for a long time; it's easier to start with just a few minutes of walking indoors per day, then ease into more.  

Stacy Witscher wrote:Joshua - I feel like much of what you said resonates with barefoot living and fox walking. My chiropractors and doctors are constantly pushing me to be always wearing shoes with support, and never letting my feet touch the ground. I disagree completely. Those things seem to be keeping everything misaligned. More and more, I listen to my body and not my doctors and experience positive results.

 
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