Arthritis and Gardening

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Those of us who love life in the garden know what enjoyment it brings. Although the garden may beckon as strongly as ever, the tasks involved such as pulling weeds, pushing wheelbarrows, digging planting holes, moving heavy pots become cause for concern. After all, the pages of the calendar turn in one direction for us all. But the idea of giving up gardening, our “happy place”, is unthinkable for most of us soil soldiers. However, many of us with arthritis pain or limits still enjoy this popular pastime. Gardening is also great for maintaining range of motion, bone density and strength, joint flexibility, and overall quality of life. With a little education, the right tools, and some out of the box thinking you can tailor your designs and develop sensible plans that retain the activities that you love.

Work smarter, not harder in the garden by preplanning your garden and activities. The type, size, location and plant selection for the garden matters. Rather than ground level garden plots, consider raised beds, containers, or tower gardening. Next, select the right gardening tools to help minimize pain and stress. Reduce the physical impact on the back, knees, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. Ergonomic tools have features designed to keep your body in a natural, neutral, comfortable position. Fit the tool to the user with regard to the tool’s weight, handle size and shape, overall length and gripping surface. Prepare your body for the gardening activities and set the stage to manage arthritis discomfort while you’re in the garden. Garden early, wear the right gear, hydrate, be aware of your posture, stretch often and take breaks. Remember that gardening is good therapy, plus you get tomatoes!

Read more about arthritis basics, gardening pre-planning, tools and accessories, and small-scale fruit and vegetable production.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.