Gardening may well be the single most fulfilling and beneficial hobby a person can have. Studies have shown that regular gardening can drastically reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, stroke, and dementia in people over 60. Plus, all the stooping, digging, gripping, clipping, crouching, and crawling involved in gardening makes it a great way to exercise while doing something you enjoy! As with any workout, however, gardening can cause pain in your muscles and joints – especially if you already suffer from some form of arthritis. Joint pain has the potential to ruin an otherwise pleasant day spent tending your garden.
Don’t give up on gardening because of joint pain. Keep reading for a list of steps you can take that may help you prevent further joint damage.
Step 1: Plan Ahead
One way to reduce the risk of joint pain while gardening is to plan the layout of your garden to accommodate your abilities. If you’re unable to stoop, kneel, or bend without pain, consider buying hanging baskets or growing your plants in 24-inch containers kept within easy reach on a tabletop or along a windowsill. Creating raised beds is another way to make your plants easier to reach and has the added benefits of preventing soil erosion and keeping weeds and pests at bay.
If you prefer a ground-level garden, you can still make things easier on yourself by planting narrow flower beds so you can tend them without having to reach and by establishing clear, flat paths among your plants to lessen the danger of losing your balance or tripping over something.
For further help in planning a successful garden, you may also want to read up on common garden layout issues and how to account for them in your plan.
Step 2: Use the Right Tools
To prevent joint pain caused by bending and kneeling, choose long-handled tools (3 – 4 feet). Try to find tools with a rubber sheath at the top of the handle to make them easier to grip; alternatively, you can get a pair of sturdy, vinyl garden gloves with “grippers” on the palm and fingers. A good pair of gardening gloves will run about $ 20, but they’ll last much longer than a cheap pair.
Pulling weeds by hand? Consider using a long-handled weed-pulling tool and save those joints. Choose one that picks up the weed for you so you don’t have to stoop down to do it, and keep a basket, bucket, or trash bag nearby to discard the weeds in as you pull them.
Finally, make things as easy on yourself as possible by transporting your gardening tools in a wheelbarrow rather than carrying them by hand. Get several small bags of mulch or fertilizer instead of one large one, to prevent injuries and back pain caused by heavy lifting.
Step 3: Get Comfortable
There’s no reason why you can’t be comfortable while getting your exercise from gardening. Invest in high quality gloves with a good grip. You should also make sure and wear good gardening shoes that cushion your feet as well as provide stability. If your garden requires a lot of kneeling, we recommend a cushion called a kneeler to take the pressure off your knees while you tend to your plants. Kneelers can be found in the garden section of just about any hardware store, or you can make your own in a pinch by folding old towels and placing them under your knees.
Step 4: Prepare Your Body for Work
An excellent way to avoid any aches and pains after gardening is to take a brisk 5-minute walk or follow a stretching routine to warm up and get your blood circulating properly before you begin. Be mindful of your posture – as you work, try to keep your back as straight as possible, and if you have to bend over, bend with your hips rather than your knees or back. And when you’re working with a tool, grasp the handle near the top with one hand and partway down with the other to give yourself greater control over how the tool moves and to prevent discomfort caused by straining your body too hard or twisting your wrist.
Step 5: Take it Easy
As excited as you may be to get started planting your garden and watching it grow, it’s important not to try and do too much in one day. After all, research suggests that 30 minutes each day is all you need to reap most of the amazing health benefits of gardening, while working any longer than 1 – 2 hours increases your chances of experiencing joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches.
Step 6: Stock up on Blue-Emu!
Regardless of how careful you might be, if you suffer from joint pain, gardening will cause some discomfort. Be prepared by having BLUE-EMU® Maximum Arthritis Pain Relief Cream in your medicine cabinet – and if you don’t, you can order it directly from our website. BLUE-EMU® Maximum Arthritis Pain Relief Cream combines the analgesic properties of its active ingredient, trolamine salicylate and our signature component, 100% pure emu oil, bringing you fast relief with no mess and no stink! For more information about treating joint pain, read our previous blog post on the topic.
One Last Thing…
Before you put all your tools back in the shed and go inside to wash up, reward yourself by looking at the fruits (or flowers) of your labor. In gardening, just like real life, sometimes you have to just stop and smell the roses!