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Life in Motion

Gardening with Arthritis

Joint Health

Do you like to get your hands dirty and exercise your green thumb? Gardening is a hobby many people enjoy. However, digging, kneeling, and bending can be hard on joints. If you’re one of over 50 million Americans who have been diagnosed with arthritis, gardening might be an activity you think you have to give up. Yet it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let joint pain stop you from doing an activity you enjoy.

Here are a few tips on how to manage your arthritis effectively while gardening from expert Monica Piecyk, MD, Rheumatologist at NEBH:

Make adjustments to make gardening easier
Plan ahead and adjust your gardening task based on your body’s needs. Instead of bending and working on the ground, try gardening activities that are level to your waist. Work on potted plants at a table or work on raised flower beds. Think about what flowers or plants you will have and where you will place them. You can combine where you plant your flowers and vegetables. Instead of carrying watering cans or garden hoses you can try laying sprinklers or soaker hoses to water your plants. You can also avoid high maintenance plants that require a lot of attention or pruning. 

Equipment: Have the right tools
Avoid wear and tear on your joints by using a bench or stool made for gardening or use knee pads. If you need to kneel or bend while working, your knees will be protected. You could also sit on a stool to take breaks. Gardening gloves help to protect hand joints.  There are special gardening tools available with larger handles that are designed for people who suffer from arthritis. An ergonomically designed hand rake is easier to grip and helps keep joints in the correct position while working. If you prefer not to purchase new equipment you could wrap pipe insulation around the handles so that the tools are easier to hold. A small wheelbarrow or wagon is handy to carry items from place to place. 

Pace yourself
Shorter sessions of gardening are easier on the body than one long session. Pay attention to any signs of pain telling you it is time to stop, and don’t forget to take regular breaks. Respect your arthritis symptoms and try working in a new way. You may have been used to pruning, planting, watering and weeding all day, but instead you could spread out your chores throughout the week. Try a variety of activities instead of focusing on one task. It is important to drink water and stay hydrated while you are working. 

During planting season, don‘t let arthritis keep you from your garden. Gardening is not only a fun hobby, it is also a good form of exercise that can help alleviate stiffness that comes with the disease. With a few modifications and the proper equipment, gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby.

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