Guide to Gardening with Arthritis and Other Physical Ailments

gardening for arthritisWhat is the most important tool when you garden? Certainly the most valuable is YOU! Your body is what puts in the labor to create the space you love, and whether it is made for aesthetics or you are producing food and vegetables, your body is the caretaker.

To help prevent injury or tame previous ailments like arthritis there are some tips and strategies we have learned over the many years of gardening:

Respect the pain: Pain is a precursor to more pain. It should be treated as a warning sign that something is off and you need to rest or sooth. Deadlines are important but the point of gardening at home is supposed to be leisurely and enjoyable. Plus, there are no gardening deadlines that should force someone into painful activities.

Poor posture: repetitive movements and action is okay if you are doing it correctly. When you bend or kneel or pick items up make sure you are doing it properly: straightened spine, always use your legs, and never overload one side of your body. Like a trainer friend always encouraged: “Posture up!”. Avoid awkward lifting and abuse of your elbows, fingers and other major joints. Respect your body and its’ dynamics no matter how old you are!

Switch tasks often: this coincides with the previous point as repetition can be not only boring but draining on the body. Switch up jobs. Bend a little, pick a little, weed some more, etc.. It’ll all get done eventually but multi-tasking will keep you sane and your body going.

Use supports, splints or braces: many seniors have had shoulder, hip, knee or back surgeries through the years and for the sake of protecting those previously operated on or injured areas.

Read equipment and tool user manuals: pretty self-explanatory but the instructions are designed for a reason: to keep you from misusing and injuring yourself.

Make sure your tools are sharpened frequently and clean: shears, knives, hoes, trowels and shovels will be easier to use if sharpened, and this will in turn make task easier, and keep the impact low on your body.

Fingers and arthritis: hand tools can pinch and slice, and the repetitive use can strain joints and tendons so make sure you alternate hands. It is very good to balance the workload between both sides of your body

Carrying heavy objects: place all heavy objects in a wheelbarrow or device with wheels (wagons are great!) to transport these items. If you are watering your yard or plants look into buying a lightweight garden hose like the Clear Flow. This hose ejects the excess water so you don’t have to lug around water weight and whip the hose around various items (you know what I mean by this!). 

Update: The Clear Flow Hose was featured in two recent product reviews of ours: the Lightweight Garden Hose Review and Elaine and I were so impressed that we enrolled it on our Top 3 Garden Hose list.

And the most important: Stretching beforehand. Gardening is a physical activity. Make sure you ‘warm up’ and keep your muscles and joints loose. Being stiff only encourages injury, and decreases the fun factor to a zero!

Happy gardening and enjoy!