Reducing the Risks of Gardening Injuries

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

Spring is arriving and with that many people are heading outdoors to get started on their gardens. Although gardening is a great activity to spend some time outdoors, it also requires the use of the hands and wrists, which means these joints are at risk for injury.

Similar to overuse injuries that athletes sustain in sports which require a lot of repetitive motions, gardeners are also at risk. Typically the injuries of the hand, wrist, and elbow that gardeners suffer from tend to develop over time and don’t usually hurt at the start. Oftentimes the pain from sprains, tendinitis or mild arthritis is low at first, which results in it being ignored. If left untreated, these minor issues can develop into more serious conditions.

Examples of Gardening Injuries:

  • Trigger Thumb or Trigger Finger
    • Painful locking of the fingers or thumb can be caused by the opening and closing motion used with shears or hand tools when gardening.
  • Gamekeeper’s Thumb
    • This is an injury to the ligament on the inside of the thumb, which is a result of chronic weakening from repetitive stress to the area. This injury can be caused by activities like opening and closing hand tools. People may also report difficulty opening jars if they have this injury.\
  • Wrist Tendinitis
    • Persistent pain in the wrist can develop from repeated movements of the wrist. Friction caused by tendons rubbing together can lead to irritation, inflammation and swelling. Tendinitis can be found in various areas, including near the base of the thumb or further up the forearm.
  • Elbow Epicondylitis
    • Also known as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, this form of tendinitis affects the muscles that attach near the elbow joint. Although the pain is located near the elbow, repeated movements at the wrist while gripping can be the aggravating activity.

Ways to Decrease Risk of Injury When Gardening:

  • Warm up
    • Stretch your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders prior to gardening to decrease the strain of gripping, lifting and pulling on these joints.
  • Choose the Right Tools
    • Tools with large rubber handles help reduce strain on finger joints when gripping. It is also recommended to select tools that are lighter in weight to reduce strain. Gloves with rubber can also help with gripping to reduce pain in hands and wrists when gardening.
  • Proper Form When Gardening
    • Improper form is a common cause of hand and wrist pain when gardening. Use ergonomic hand grips to decrease these incorrect positions.
  • Take Frequent Breaks
    • Set an alarm to remind you to take breaks every 20 minutes or so during gardening to allow the muscles and joints to rest.

Safe Gardening All Summer Long

These tips can help gardeners prevent injury so they are able to tend to their garden all summer long. However, should aches or pains occur during or after gardening, make sure to schedule an appointment with an Athletico occupational therapist or hand therapist. These professionals are trained to treat hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries, and will work with you to get you back to doing the things you love – like gardening!

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

Read more health resources related to these topics:

Occupational/Hand Therapygardeninggardening injurieshand injurieswrist injuries

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