People with arthritis often ask, “Do I have to give up gardening now?”
The answer is no! By making just a few adjustments to protect your body from undue stress and fatigue, you can still get out and enjoy your garden.
The good of gardening
Gardening is an excellent way to keep physically active and maintain your quality of life. Regular gardening can help reduce stress, fatigue and blood pressure. It improves blood circulation, mood and sleep, slows bone loss, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Gardening is a great activity for arthritis as it keeps joints flexible and strengthens muscles and bones. Being outside in the sunshine provides Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium it needs to keep your bones strong.
Caring for the gardener
You may need to change the way you work in the garden in order to protect your joints. Repetitive actions can lead to swelling and pain so aim to exercise joints and muscles without straining them. It helps to pace yourself – know your limits, change tasks often, and rest when you need to.
Begin and end your gardening session by stretching. This will make your muscles more flexible and help prevent stiffness and soreness afterwards.
Make it easy
When thinking about your garden, consider:
- planting shrubs or perennials that bloom every year, so you don’t have to replant each time
- using mulch to reduce the need to water
- gardening when the soil is moist as the ground will be softer
- planting in hanging baskets or pots
- raised gardens to minimise stooping and kneeling
Painful joints and weak muscles can make gardening a challenge. But by changing just a few things and taking it slowly, you can do yourself a power of good and still enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Tips for protecting your joints
- Use your strongest joints – when carrying something, take the weight through your forearm rather than hands and fingers
- Don’t stretch too far – work within easy reach and keep objects close to your body as you lift them
- Use light, ergonomic tools that are easy to control
- To lift, always bend from the knees and use your leg muscles, not your back
- Avoid pinching, squeezing or twisting movements
Helpful gadgets and gizmos
See your local hardware store, gardening centre or disability equipment centre for arthritis-friendly tools and gardening aids, such as:
- An old stool or a padded kneeler that saves standing
- A wrist splint or thumb splint for weak wrists and fingers
- A carpenter’s apron with several pockets for carrying small tools
- Ratcheting pruners and loppers which require less strength
- An old golf cart, wagon or wheelbarrow for carting tools, pots or loads of rubbish
- A moveable reel to store your garden hose
- An up-to-date tetanus vaccination
- A mask to wear when handling compost or soil mix to prevent infection from Legionella bacteria
- Sun protection