Top Five Tips for Pain-Free Gardening

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Now that spring has finally sprung, it’s time to spruce up the yard. One of the most well-loved springtime activities is gardening – but did you know that you can hurt your hand or wrist if you’re not careful?

“Hand and wrist pain is common during repetitive activities like gardening,” says Sandy Stephens, Hand Therapist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Hand Therapy Center. “Taking the time to plan can help you prevent injuries or even long-term damage to your hands and wrists.”

Ready to dig in and get started? Check out our top five tips for pain-free gardening this spring and summer.

Start with a stretch

Warm up for gardening just like you would warm up for a run. Take a brisk walk around the yard to get your circulation moving, raising your arms over your head a few times. Gently push your hands together in a prayer position, stretching out the backs of your hands and wrists. Next, curl your hands into a tight ball and release them, separating your fingers and stretching your wrist.

Don’t overdo it with the heavy lifting – utilize a family member, a neighbor or even a wheelbarrow to help distribute the weight of bags of dirt, mulch and even bulky flower pots.

Check out your tool selection

If you’re planting flowers or working in your vegetable garden, your tools can make a big difference in comfort. Pick a hand shovel and trowel with a wide, built-up handle – it will help give you leverage while digging. If you can’t find tools that comfortably fit your hands, try modifying them yourself at home by adding extra padding.

Stay hydrated and protected in the heat

Drink plenty of water, take breaks in the shade and make sure you’re wearing sunscreen, a wide-brim hat and loose, lightweight protective clothes. It can be tempting to finish planting one more row of flowers or to rototill one more section of the vegetable bed – but it can wait. While taking a water break in the shade, gently stretch your hands and wrists to avoid any stiffness from settling in.

Work with what you’ve got

We can’t fix the type of dirt in our yards – tough clay and rocky soil can make for frustrating (and painful) digging. Instead of risking injury to your hands or wrists by digging in rock-hard dirt, keep an eye on the weather and plan to garden when the ground is still wet after rain. If you live in a dry climate that doesn’t get a lot of rain showers, try to soften the ground with the gentle setting on your hose before you start digging and planting.

Give your hands extra TLC

After you’ve finished gardening, bask in that indescribable feeling of accomplishment – and also take stock in how your hands and wrists are feeling. Ice, heating pads and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like Advil or Aleve can help you avoid significant discomfort. Light stretches and movement can also help increase circulation to any painful areas.

Schedule an appointment with a hand therapist at St. Elizabeth

If your pain persists, the hand experts at St. Elizabeth Healthcare are here to help. The skilled Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Hand Therapy Center will evaluate your hand pain and help create a customized treatment plan to fit your needs. Call (859) 301-5540 for more information or schedule an appointment today. A doctor’s referral is necessary.