Gardening and Arthritis with April Showers Brings….Gardening!
Gardening can help us get in touch with nature, get active in good weather, but if done incorrectly can lead to joint pain and fatigue. By adopting some different body mechanics, these strategies can be safe and enjoyable with less risk of injury.
Balance rest and activity
- Keep tools within reach to prevent overtiring
- Take rest breaks every 15 minutes and stop working before you become tired
- Sit when gardening to lessen the stress on your back when you can
- Change positions to avoid becoming stiff
Work smarter, not harder
- If using mulch or soil, take smaller loads or use a cart or wheelbarrow to help move materials
- Lift with your legs not your back, use stronger joints to spread the weight of items you carry
- If gripping tools is painful, get tools with a wide grip or handles with extra padding
- Choose containers made of lightweight materials rather than heavy pots
Other tips from an Occupational Therapist
- Wear splints. OTs can advise you on if splints may help reduce your joint pain by supporting hand and wrist joints.
- Warm up and cool down before gardening with hand exercises
- Utilize ergonomic garden tools that reduce grip and pinch force required to use tool, and keep the wrist neutral
- Lightweight lawnmowers with push or keys to start
- Lightweight cutting shears with increased padding
- Ergonomic hand trowels to take pressure off thumb joints
Shay Hagerty, OTR/L can treat people with arthritis in the hand/fingers. During a session she can educate you on joint protection principles, discuss appropriate orthotic (wrist brace) options, provide a home exercise program to maintain or increase mobility, and work with you to create goals that fit your lifestyle. Research suggests that ultrasound may be helpful with pain management, so Shay conducts ultrasounds in our clinic to help reduce pain. She also work to improve hand strength with exercises and identify ways to help you accomplish daily activities in ways to reduce pain.
American Occupational Therapy Association (2012). Healthy Gardening. https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/consumers/Adults/gardening-tip-sheet-english.pdf
Versus Arthritis. “Gardening and arthritis information booklet” (2021). https://www.versusarthritis.org/media/23632/gardening-arthritis-information-booklet-2021.pdf