Gardening season can be hard on hands, wrists, and elbows. It’s easy to forget the basics. Here are some ways to avoid tendonitis, infection, and pain this year.
Both beginning and experienced gardeners are at risk for injuries and pain every spring. Many of my patients have gardened for years and never have pain. Suddenly they find that activiites that never bothered them now create pain and discomfort. New gardeners are often surprised at how sore they can be after a few hours of hard work in their spring garden.
Just implementing one of these tips will prevent pain and aggravation this gardening season.
Gardening safety tip 1: stretch before you start
Gardening involves repetitive gripping, grasping, twisting, and lifting; the same stresses and strains that contribute to chronic workplace injury.
It may not feel like a sport, but you should approach it like an athlete preparing for competition or training. Slow, gentle, progressive stretching of your fingers, wrists, and forearms will loosen and warm up your muscles and tendons before you get started.
Gardening safety tip 2: use proper body positioning
A classic back pain prevention tip in factories and industrial plants is to stand as close to a heavy object as possible when starting to lift it.
Same rules apply here – if you’re working the soil in a flower bed, for example, you should be as close to “on top” of the soil as possible. Don’t reach over two feet in front of you to do your work.
This puts maximum stress and strain on your elbows, rotator cuff, and lower back.
Gardening safety tip 3: avoid one-handed work
Most tendonitis develops when one hand is doing most of the heavy work alone.
Use your other hand to grip a long rake handle or help the first hand to twist and dig. This distributes weight and force between more muscle groups, which avoids over-working one area of the arm.
Another tip is to avoid gripping long handles with only one hand at the very top of the handle. Place one hand close to the working end and one higher up, keeping your back as straight as possible.
Gardening safety tip 4: wear gloves
If I had a dime for every “ho-hum” cut, puncture wound, thorn, or gardening boo-boo I’ve seen turn into a nasty infection…
You do NOT have time to deal with a finger or hand infection, trust me. These infections can be long and difficult to treat, and sometimes require multiple expensive surgeries.
A good pair of quality gardening gloves is worth the investment. Use them whenever you’ll be digging, moving brush or branches, or working with tools.