Five Painless Tips For Arthritic Gardeners
Is your green thumb arthritic? Mine is. And so are my knees and shoulders.
According to the Center for Disease Control: “The various forms of arthritis affect more than 15 percent of the U.S. population—over 43 million persons—and more than 20 percent of the adult population, making arthritis one of the most common conditions in the United States.”
In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the country – more than back problems, heart problems or lung problems.
The good news is that gardening can still be a source of accomplishment and pleasure for people suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and the allied problems of lupus and fibromyalgia.
Beyond the emotional, sensual and even spiritual benefits of working with nature, the exercise that gardening provides can offer sizable health rewards for arthritics as well. One of the main mantras of the Arthritis Foundation is “movement is the best medicine.”
“Mainly, exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness, builds strong muscle around the joints, and increases flexibility and endurance. It reduces inflammation from arthritis and related conditions and lowers the risk of other chronic conditions. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by giving you more energy, helping you sleep better, controlling your weight, decreasing depression, and giving you more self-esteem.”
Yes, tending a garden can do all that – as long as you do it wisely and with a minimum of physical stress.
Here are five top tips that can help you.
1. Warm up
Gentle stretching and warming-up exercises are always recommended before starting any workout – and that’s just as true for work out in the yard. We’ll detail a host of these warm-ups here on Painless Garden over the next months. If you’re an arthritis sufferer, chances are you already have some favorite “joint-looseners” you can use.
2. Bring the garden to you
That’s the first tenet of Painless Gardening because it’s the best thing you can do for your joints (and your time and energy.) Using a form of raised garden – preferably one that can be easily tended sitting or standing – and keeping it close to your house will save you hours of bending, stooping, walking and lugging tools and supplies. And that will save you a lot of wear and tear on your body.
3. Use correct form
The Arthritis Foundation says: “Let larger, stronger muscles and joints do more of the work, when possible. Keep items close to your body as you carry them. Stand or sit up straight while you work, and change positions often.”
4. Pick appropriate tools
The fourth tenet of Painless Gardening is to delegate strain to your tools. By that I mean choose tools that are ergonomically designed and use them properly so they do the brunt of the heavy work. Happily, today many such tools are available on the Internet from Bionic Gloves to Peta and Radius hand tools to comfortable garden kneeler/seats that take the strain off knees.
If you do have to tend a garden or yard that isn’t raised, choose long-handled tools to let you work comfortably when standing or kneeling.
5. Switch tasks and switch off
Take frequent breaks. After 15-30 minutes of work, rest or do another type of chore that uses different muscles. The more you limit repetitive physical tasks, the better you’ll avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Go slowly, listen to your body and avoid over-exertion.
Follow these simple tips and you can maximize your gardening pleasure while minimizing arthritis pain.
Do you have any great tips that have helped you beat arthritis pain? Share them in the comments below!
Photo by andreyutzu, courtesy of StockExchange.