Gardening Tips for People With Aches and Pains
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
If you have aches and pains, you may have arthritis.
And gardening while usually an enjoyable and soothing hobby can put a lot of stress on your joints if you’re not careful.
Here are a few ways to have a great garden and protect your joints as well...
Plan to garden when you feel the best. Many people with arthritis have significant morning stiffness. Late morning or afternoon may be the best time to garden.
Consider planting in pots instead of a garden plot. Use lightweight containers and place them on top of an empty inverted pot, bench, railing top, or deck tables.
If you have to kneel down, make sure you use knee pads for extra cushioning.
Before doing any kind of repetitive activity in the garden, make sure you stretch properly. And don’t forget to take your breaks.
To reduce the amount of bending you do, use long handled tools such as rakes and hoes.
Remember... instead of one trip, save your back by doing a couple of trips with less of a load.
Consider having a garden where there are firm paths along the beds and borders so you don’t have to step out onto the soil and risk falling. Narrow beds – no more than 4 feet wide- can be tended without having to stretch too far. Don’t make the beds too long because you have to walk around them to get to the other side. Make sure the paths are wide enough to move around on.
Consider using hanging trellises. Plants grow vertically therefore cutting down on the amount you have to travel.
You can also sit on a stool and garden with long-handled tools.
To reduce the grip torsion, add foam rubber to the handles. Always use electric tools when you can in place of manual tools. This one tip will save your joints from a lot of excess wear and tear. In particular, hand implements that require repetitive motion should be automatic and not manual (e.g., pruning shears).
Choose your tools wisely. For instance, using a smaller border spade instead of a digging spade is wise since the border spade is lighter and easier to handle. Stainless steel blades tend to be better than carbon steel as far as soil sticking to it. When soil sticks to the blade, you have a heavier load. Stainless steel is easier to clean.
If you have to carry stuff, and you have problems with arthritis involving your hands, distribute the load over both the hands and arms. For instance, if you have to lift a tray of small plants, carry it on your forearms instead of lifting and carrying with your fingers. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body to avoid strain on your elbows, shoulders, and back.
Try planting low maintenance flowers and plants. Perennials avoid the need for planting new flowers every year. You might consider using varieties that don’t require excessive maintenance such as deadheading (removing dead blooms by using scissors or pinching off). Also, using young plants instead of seed might be easier on the hands.
Fill your beds and borders with potting soil or any other kind of loose soil. Good soil reduces the need for weeding and makes it easier to weed and to get vegetables from the ground.
Consider using an elevated flowerbed or garden. This will allow you to garden without producing excessive strain on your back.
Use a large apron with many pockets to help hold your gardening tools.
Check your source of water. It should be convenient and not require your carrying hoses or watering cans great distances.
Consider using a sprinkling system instead of having to haul around a large watering can. A hose storage system like a hose caddy will help you avoid having to lift and carry a hose..
When you store your gardening tools and supplies, keep your frequently used items at eye level. And make sure your tool shed is near your garden so you don’t have to haul your tools great distances.
If you use any kind of assistive device to help you with walking (like a cane or walker), take it with you out to the garden.
If you have to do any lifting in the garden or for any place else for that matter, make sure you bend your knees when lifting. Get down on one knee and keep your back straight if you have to reach down..
Keep the object close to your body and use your hands and arms to lift. If possible, get someone else to do your lifting for you.
Work out a deal with neighbors or friends. If they’ll help you in the garden or help you mow the lawn, or shovel sidewalks, or do other maintenance work requiring muscle, offer to cook them a meal, baby-sit, etc.
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