Spring is a beautiful time to be outdoors when the weather is nice. If you have arthritis, the pain and inflammation may prevent you from enjoying the fun of gardening. Here are some general tips for you to help save your joints when you’re having fun and getting your hands dirty.
- Break the project into steps - avoid overdoing anything.
- Take frequent breaks - rest at least every 10-15 minutes, or less if you have pain.
- Use larger muscle groups when possible - leg muscles are larger (and stronger) than the arm muscles, and shoulder muscles are larger than hand muscles. Use the leg muscles when possible to lift/carry objects, and use shoulder and elbow to help move things as opposed to the hand joints for gardening.
- Ask a neighbor, family member, or friend to turn your soil. If you can't get anyone else to help and have to work on the soil yourself, be sure you use the larger muscle groups, i.e. your leg muscles.
- Use joint-friendly hand tools with larger or longer handles to take the stress of the finger/hand joints. If you can't find larger handles, use towels or rags to build up the smaller handles - it will save your hand joints.
- Consider planting in pots instead of the garden. This will allow you to work at table height and eliminate the stressful bending over and bending down, which will eliminate stress on the back, hips, and knees.
- Use a cart with wheels to carry plants, tools, soil, etc., to avoid the stressful bending and lifting.
- Spread your plants out in the garden, so you have fewer holes to dig, fewer plants to plant and less work.
Gardening can still be a pain-free and enjoyable hobby for people living with arthritis. But you do need a little planning and creativity. Hope these tips help with your gardening this season!
Dr. Chan has given numerous workshops and talks on “How to End Neck and Back Pain?” at local libraries, senior centers, and community centers. He is now a trusted health and wellness advisor in the local community.