How to prevent hand and wrist pain when gardening

How do we prevent pain when gardening? One of the best ways to prevent pain from arthritis in the wrist, thumb and fingers is to adopt methods that protect the joints – that is doing things in a way that reduces the stress the joint has to endure.  Here are some tips for applying joint protection to gardening:

  1. Choose easy to care for plants that don’t require a lot of pruning and maintenance.
  2. Choosing tools that are easy to grip.  Tools with larger handles will reduce the strain on finger joints when doing jobs like pruning or digging.  Applying rubber grip to handles will also reduce strain to the joints when grasping.  Another way to make gripping tools easier is to wear gloves that have a rubber section on the outside.
  3. Taking regular rest breaks.  This is hard when you love gardening and you get into your rhythm, so try setting an alarm to remind you – we suggest having a break from the same activity each 20 minutes.
  4.  Spreading the load by carrying pots, or equipment with two hands, instead of one.
  5.  Wearing custom made orthoses, also known as splints, that fit you well is a fantastic way to reduce stress to your joints and provide support, particularly for heavier tasks such as raking, or weeding.  Splints that have not been made for you in mind and are ill-fitting can often create more pain and put your hands in the wrong positions, so it’s best to see a practitioner of hand therapy if you are wanting to try splints for arthritis.  We assess and custom make your splints depending on your individual needs.  Some splints are soft, others are made of thermoplastic – all providing differing levels of support.
  6. Mounting heavy pots onto castors so they are easier to move around.
  7. Swapping your digging spade for a spade that is small and lighter.  Being lighter means less strain to the hands, and being smaller means you are not tempted to dig large spade-fulls.
  8. Alternating between harder jobs and more gentler jobs is also a great idea, rather than doing a heavier harder job all in one afternoon.
  9. Spreading the gardening workload over a few days, instead of doing the jobs all at once. This allows your hands to rest and recover and makes the enjoyment of gardening last longer!

We believe painful hands and wrists should not stop you from doing the things that make you happy. If you get pain when doing your activities at home, work or for your leisure, occupational therapists or physiotherapists working in the field of hand therapy can help. Your local practitioner of hand therapy can provide assessment and therapy for people experiencing pain or injury to their hand, wrist or upper limb. Contact the Australian Hand Therapy Association today to Find a Therapist.


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