Health & wellbeing

Gardening with joint pain: Tips to enjoy your green space safely

31 Aug 2023 | Written by Nurul Ahad

A woman is working happily in her garden. It's sunny, she's wearing a hat and she's smiling.This article was authored by Mr. Nurul Ahad, Clinical Director of Orthopaedic Surgery for Practice Plus Group. With over 15 years of experience in orthopaedic surgery, he is a meticulous, patient-focused surgeon with a proven track record for delivering an excellent quality of service.

Gardening can be a healthy, therapeutic and rewarding activity. For the green-fingered among us, you’re in luck; picking up that garden fork and getting stuck in is recommended by many doctors as a form of physical, mental and social therapy. Gardening allows individuals to keep fit and connect with nature, all whilst enjoying their surroundings.

However, for those with joint pain, gardening can pose several challenges and potential risks.

As many as 89% of gardeners report some form of joint pain or stiffness, according to Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis UK).

The strain on joints from repetitive movements, bending and lifting can exacerbate discomfort and lead to injuries. Fortunately, with a few simple adjustments and basic precautions taken, gardening can still be a pleasurable and accessible activity for people with joint pain.

Here are some useful tips to help avoid injuries while gardening:

  • Warm-up and stretching
    Before starting any gardening tasks, take a few minutes to warm up your muscles and perform gentle stretches. Focus on the areas most affected by joint pain, such as knees, hips and wrists by performing these simple movements. For example: wrist circles and shakes, arm circles, shoulder shrugs, torso rotations and toe touch and
    holds. These simple pre-gardening stretches can help alleviate muscle stiffness, improve circulation and enhance joint flexibility, while reducing the chances of potential strains or injuries before you get stuck in with your gardening.
  • Use ergonomic tools
    Invest in high-quality, ergonomic gardening tools designed to minimise stress on your joints. Look for tools with padded and long handles to avoid excessive bending or reaching. Additionally, a raised garden bed can significantly reduce the need to bend over while gardening.
  • Take frequent breaks
    Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. Plan regular breaks during gardening sessions to rest and allow your joints to recover. Overexertion can lead to increased pain and inflammation.
  • Pace yourself
    Break down gardening tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, spread out your gardening activities over several days or weeks. This approach reduces the strain on your joints and prevents overworking them.
  • Practise proper posture
    Maintain good posture while gardening to minimise stress on your joints. Bend your knees when lifting, keep your back straight and avoid twisting motions.
  • Choose joint-friendly plants
    Opt for low-maintenance plants that require less bending and pruning. Bring your garden to you and consider vertical gardening or using hanging baskets to reduce the need for ground-level work. Additionally, select plants that suit your climate and soil type to ensure they thrive with minimal effort.
  • Stay hydrated
    Drinking plenty of water is essential, especially in warmer weather. Proper hydration helps lubricate your joints and prevents stiffness.
  • Use padding and support
    Use knee pads, wrist braces or gardening gloves with extra padding to cushion your joints and provide support during repetitive tasks.
  • Lift with care
    When lifting heavy pots or bags of soil, ask for assistance if needed. If you must lift alone, use proper lifting techniques by bending your knees and keeping the object close to your body.
  • Consider adaptive gardening
    Explore adaptive gardening tools or techniques tailored to your specific needs. These may include long-reach tools, lightweight equipment or garden carts to transport heavy items.
  • Use mulch and weed barriers
    Applying mulch around plants helps retain moisture, suppresses weeds and reduces the need for frequent bending
    and weeding.
  • Know your limits
    Be realistic about what you can accomplish and be willing to ask for help when needed. There’s no shame in seeking assistance or hiring a gardener for more labour-intensive tasks.

By incorporating these tips into your regular gardening routine, you can minimise the impact of joint pain and enjoy the pleasures of gardening without compromising your wellbeing.

Make sure you listen to your body and take precautionary measures to ensure a satisfying and sustainable gardening experience – keeping it a JOYful activity for everyone.

Happy gardening!

A note from The Joy Club: This article was provided by Mr. Nurul Ahad and the Practice Plus Group. We know that health and wellbeing is extremely important to our members and that you would like to see more health-focused content within The Joy Club community. That’s why we are very excited to partner with Practice Plus Group – an outstanding healthcare provider – to bring you high-quality, expert-led health content.

What’s more, Practice Plus Group is offering members of The Joy Club a specially discounted consultation, giving you the opportunity to explore a health condition with one of Practice Plus Group’s experienced consultants, should you so wish.

An initial appointment with Practice Plus Group normally costs £95, but members of The Joy Club can benefit from a first-class consultation – including blood tests, swabs and x-rays (as required) – for a flat fee of just £50, saving £45.

To book your consultation, simply call Practice Plus Group on 03301 620 730 or submit an enquiry via the online form on the Practice Plus Group website to receive a call back. Make sure to quote the code JOY45 when prompted to redeem your special discount.

Practice Plus Group is one of England’s largest independent providers of private, insured and NHS healthcare. They are passionate about what they do and believe that anyone should be able to access excellent care.

Practice Plus Group is committed to providing positive experiences and excellent clinical outcomes. The Care Quality Commission, an independent regulator of health and social care in England, rated all of Practice Plus Group’s hospitals as ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’, meaning you can feel assured that their services are safe, reliable and personalised.

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