Gardening is a great exercise for strengthening muscles, maintaining bone density and assisting with maintenance of body weight. For the keen gardeners, Belinda Hession, Physiotherapist and AHTA Hand Therapist from Castle Hill Hand Therapy, provides some key considerations to maximise your efficiency and enjoyment when gardening.
Plan your gardening week to allow rotation between lighter and moderate tasks. Split the garden into different sections to avoid the overwhelm of getting it done at the one time. Change positions every 10-20 minutes and have short regular rest breaks (smell the roses), and break larger activities into smaller ones.
Protect yourself by using gloves with rubber grips, well maintained equipment, and using the right tools for the job. Use a custom made thumb or hand splint/orthosis if you have pain with gardening. Push rather than pull objects. Use light weight wheelbarrows, trolleys or mount pots on castors. Reduce the load, such as splitting potting mix or rocks into smaller amounts. Carry items with both hands, ideally resting on forearms to use bigger muscles, not gripping with small finger joints.
Keep your hand in alignment with your arm with your wrist bent slightly back to maximise your power and reduce joint stress. Perform smooth, controlled, slow movements, especially when weeding and digging. Utilise your body weight. Try to avoid thumb overuse and excess stress on the index finger side of your hand.
When weeding, soften the ground by watering first and then use a garden cultivator to increase efficiency and reduce repetitive muscle strain. Try lighter tools with built up handles to reduce thumb and finger pain. Ratchet style secateurs often minimise hand stress and increase ability to cut. Powered hedgers or light manual hedgers are more efficient for larger jobs.
Where appropriate, consider watering systems as opposed to hand held options to reduce prolonged gripping in one position. There are even drought approved watering systems on the market now. Choose easy to care for planets that don’t require a lot of pruning and maintenance.
Castle Hill Hand Therapy is a locally owned and operated physiotherapy clinic in the heart of Castle Hill, providing optimal care for the hand and upper limb for conditions such as base of thumb arthritis, tennis elbow, wrist pain, trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.