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How to Care for Your Hands When Gardening

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Whether its fruits, vegetables, or flowers you're planting, your hands and wrists can be especially vulnerable to injury when gardening.  

The complaints we hear most often are related to overuse and arthritis because the small joints, tendons, and muscles in this part of your body don't like the amount of stress gardening puts on them.

The result is often swollen knuckles, painful joints, and even carpal tunnel syndrome.  The good news - there are ways to protect your hands and wrists while gardening and prevent pain.  

Rotate Duties

The best way to avoid irritating your hands or wrists is to rotate gardening duties.  Change what you are doing every 15-20 minutes.  Switch from weeding to watering, or digging to pruning.  It's the activities you perform over and over again that cause the most strain. 

Spread the Load

When carrying gardening tools or plants, try to spread the load through your hands and arms not just your fingers.  For example, rest a tray of plants across your forearms.  Keep your elbows tucked to your side and the object close to your body to prevent strain on your shoulders and neck as well. 

Keep Wrists Straight

It's common to bend the wrists when pulling things out of the ground or using gardening tools.  Keep your wrists straight and flat, not bent upward or downward. This allows you to use your larger shoulder muscles to pull and lift instead of just your small wrist muscles.    

Relax Your Grip

Holding onto gardening tools too tightly can cause unnecessary strain. Keep your wrist in a neutral position and apply comfortable pressure.  A death grip is not necessary and causes you to fatigue more quickly; in addition to the risk of muscle or tendon injury. 

Upgrade Your Tools

The proper tools and grip can make all the difference in your gardening comfort.  A larger grip will allow you to keep your hands more relaxed.  You can slip a rubber sleeve over the handle of a hoe or rake to allow you to grip it more easily preventing strain. There are also modification tools, such as the Easi-Grip Add On Handle*, that gives you better control.  

Wear Gloves

Thinner skin as we age leads to more scrapes and skin tears.  It's important for both our skin and joint safely to protect our hands with gloves when gardening.  In addition, you can find gloves that offer support and mild compression to ease arthritic joints.  

We hope you will use these suggestions to stay active in your garden (and pain free) for many years to come.  If you have additional questions or concerns about joint pain limiting your ability to perform your favorite activities, REQUEST A CALL from a doctor of physical therapy today.  Just click HERE. 

 

*The Amazon link to the Easi-Grip Add on Handle: