The truth is that gardening can actually be a benefit to us both mentally and physically.
Gardening reduces stress for most people.
Something about working in the dirt and being close to nature gives most folks a sense of calm and relaxation.
Gardening can also help you maintain joint flexibility, range of motion, strength of muscles and endurance.
Strengthening the muscles around your joints will give more support to the joints, which is a real plus.
Here are a few tips that can help to any gardener.
Remember the goal is to garden smarter, not harder.
Be kind to your body. Before you start your gardening, do gentle stretches to warm up your muscles and flex your joints. Your doctor or a physical therapist can give you a list of stretching exercises.
Pace yourself. Change the task you are doing every 30 minutes, and take breaks every hour. Plant a little, weed a little, water a little, stop and enjoy a little. Less is more when it comes to any task in the garden. And if it hurts, stop. Your body is telling you that it has had enough of that task. Wear a hat, gloves and sunscreen because some arthritis medication can make you even more sensitive to the Texas Sunshine!
Think big when using muscles. Lift by using the big muscles of legs. Lift by bending at the knees, not the back. Avoid squeezing, pinching and twisting motions that stress muscles and joints. Practice correct posture and keep items close to your body as you carry them. Instead of using your fingers to lift an object, try to use the flat palm. Use larger stronger joints and muscles of arms or shoulders for carrying instead of hands.
Use garden techniques to reduce effort. Select perennial plants that come back every year once planted. Select plants that will do well in your area such as the Texas SuperStar perennial plants, which can be found at www.texassuperstar.com. Install drip irrigation or soaker hoses in garden beds and containers. Use wood mulch to reduce weeding and watering. If bending or kneeling is too difficult for you, bring the garden up to you with raised beds. Containers on wheels, window boxes, hanging baskets, and trellises are other ideas to bring the garden to your level.
Select joint friendly tools. First, be sure to invest in a good pair of gloves to protect your hands and cushion joints. Use ergonomic tools that have long or extendable handles, which will reduce bending and stooping. Widen tool handles with foam tubing used to cover pipes or invest in new wide-handled and easy-to-grip hand tools. Fiberglass handles are lighter weight when selecting tools. Use a cart or wheelbarrow to haul tools and supplies. Use a wheeled chair or kneeling bench to put you closer to your tasks.
So we can enjoy gardening even with arthritis.
Know your limits, and don’t be afraid to ask for help for some of the gardening tasks that are too heavy for you.
Using some of these tips and techniques may reduce pain and enhance the many pleasures a garden can bring.
The beauty, relaxation and satisfaction of gardening is the ultimate goal. Enjoy.