An enjoyable activity for many, gardening can turn dangerous, as repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can occur without proper precaution. “Raking, weeding, digging and pruning put stress on the hands and wrists,” says Lorie Theisen, NRH Occupational Therapist and CHT. “Many gardeners spend hours performing these activities with improper form, which can lead to a variety of problems in the hands and upper extremities.”
Since prevention is the best approach, the Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) at NRH Regional Rehab in Pasadena, MD suggest the following warm-up exercises and injury prevention tips. (Note: These exercises should never be painful when completing them. You should only feel a gentle stretch. Should you experience pain, please consult a hand therapist or physician.) Hold each movement for 10 seconds and repeat eight times:
- Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward. You should feel a stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers.
- Again, fold your hands and turn your palms away, but this time extend your arms overhead. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand.
- Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. This is a stretch for the upper back and shoulder. Stretch both the right and left arms.
- Raise one arm overhead. Bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on the bent elbow and gently push the elbow back further. This is a stretch for the triceps. Stretch both the right and left arms.
- Extend an arm in front of you, making sure the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend in the wrist downward. Then turn the palm up, and stretch the wrist backwards. This stretches the forearm and wrist muscles.
“Poor form and bad habits during gardening can bring an early end to the gardening season,” adds Theisen. “Remember to stay hydrated and garden during the early morning or early evening hours when temperatures are lower. Following these guidelines is the best way to stay healthy and enjoy the many benefits of gardening.”
For more on preventing injury and fostering healthy gardening practices, the The American Society of Hand Therapists offer these professionally designed guidelines.