Gardening is a great way to stay active for those with arthritis. It improves strength, maintains range of motion, and even can relieve stress. Unfortunately, it can, in some cases, aggravate arthritis pain, making it hard to enjoy this pastime. There are strategies, however, that can decrease pain and get you the most out of your gardening.
1) Think it through
“One of the biggest things is having good planning,” said Kristi Mizelle, MD, MPH, FACR of TPMG Rheumatology-Newport News. Determine your body’s needs before you pick up the pruners. Those with bad knee osteoarthritis should consider alternatives to kneeling. Stooping over and leaning may exacerbate degenerative joint disease in the back. While gripping, pulling, or grasping can irritate hand osteoarthritis.
There are several strategies that Dr. Mizelle recommends. Consider planting in raised beds or pots to make plants easier to reach to avoid bending over. Bring a water bottle out with you to stay hydrated. In addition to thinking about your body’s limitations, consider the plants you put in your garden. Find plants that require low maintenance and can thrive on their own.
2) Timing is everything
Regular activity is good for osteoarthritis, but make sure you aren’t overdoing it in the garden. Keep track of your pain while you garden. If you start to experience pain, stiffness, or fatigue, it may be a sign that you should take a break. It’s easy to forget how long you’ve spent outside, so consider setting reminders on your phone.
3) Tools can help
Using the right tools can help decrease your arthritic pain, as well. Look for tools with wider grips and gloves. Gloves can provide protection for your hands and help you widen the grip on some of your tools. Find tools with long handles to keep you from bending over. Lightweight tools can help prevent muscle pain/fatigue.
4) Temperature matters
It’s important to find the right time of day to work in your garden, especially in the summer. Rising temperatures can make it uncomfortable to work during mid-day, instead try working in the early morning and late evening when the temperature is lower. If you do garden at mid-day, take frequent breaks and drink more water.
Gardening has numerous health benefits keeping you physically active and helping lower stress and anxiety. If you are living with arthritis, don’t put up the shovel quiet yet. Work with a rheumatologist to find simple solutions to help ease any gardening task.
About Dr. Kristi V. Mizelle, MD, MPH, FACR
Dr. Mizelle is located in Newport News at TPMG Rheumatology – Newport News.