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News Letter

Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Joint-Friendly Tips for Mowing Your Lawn Print E-mail

For many people, mowing the lawn is a gratifying and relaxing task. But what if you have arthritis? Depending on your condition and if done correctly, it can still be an enjoyable way to get outdoors, be productive and get some excellent exercise.

In general, mowing provides a good overall workout, says Wayne L. Wescott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass. "You're walking on a soft surface instead of pounding the pavement," he says. "The time goes by quickly, because you are focused on keeping straight lines, and concentrating on your lawn and not the exercise."

The combination of upper- and lower-body movements offers an excellent way to get aerobic exercise while strengthening ligaments and muscles that support the joints.

If you have arthritis, however, talk with your doctor to make sure it's OK to mow based on your specific condition. If it is, then some of these tips may help you make the most of your mowing:

  • The most useful tip for arthritis sufferers is to use a mulching mower. This eliminates some of the most joint-wrenching aspects of the job, such as stooping over to gather clippings and lugging them away in bags.
  • Using a mulching mower can reduce or eliminate the need for raking in the fall, too. Pushing a mulching mower is easier on the joints than raking and hauling leaves. If you mow frequently, before the leaves pile up too much, it's a good, joint-friendly alternative to raking.
  • Consider a self-propelled mower. "For people who do not have arthritis, I recommend using a standard hand-pushed power mower," Dr. Wescott said, because it gives you more of a workout. But people with arthritis may do better with a self-propelled mower, he said.
  • Store your mower in a convenient location so you don't have to wrestle it out of a crowded shed or garage.
  • If you are in the market for a new mower, consider one with a key-start ignition. Pulling repeatedly on a starter rope can make a stiff shoulder feel stiffer, or cause a low-back injury.
  • Don't over-fertilize.
  • Mow with the blade set higher. It's good for your lawn, and it reduces the resistance when you are pushing the mower.
  • Consider an electric mower for smaller yards. These offer the advantage of being lightweight, and they reduce the vibration that can be rough on achy joints.
  • Anti-vibration gloves absorb the shock of vibrations from a power-mower engine. The gloves are helpful when raking, too. Ask at your hardware store or contact an occupational therapist at your local hospital about where to find a pair.
  • Do not bend forward at the waist when pushing your power lawnmower. While a slight forward lean may be OK, bending too far forward places excessive stress on the lower back. Try to walk with an erect posture. Be particularly careful when turning the mower around, by staying close to the handle and avoiding abrupt trunk-twisting movements.
  • Listen to your body. When aches and pains make the task a drudge instead of a pleasant chore, then it may be time to hire someone or try a riding lawn mower.
  • Or, for the ultimate in hands-free mowing, you might look at the new "robots" that mow your yard while you relax in a hammock. These robotic devices are self-driven platforms. The robot navigates your lawn by sensing a magnetic field created by a wire that you place around the perimeter of your yard.
  • If your lawn has hills or slopes, it may not be a good idea to mow it yourself. The hills and/or slopes may cause more strain on your hips and knees and thus a possible injury.
  • Ride on mowers are great, just be careful getting on and off the mower (twisting my injure your knee).
  • Remember Safety - don't put your hand under the mower to clean out the grass while the mower is on.

Conclusion

Mowing can be good exercise. For people with arthritis, it's best to get your doctor's OK first. Then, with some tips like the ones above, you can enjoy the outdoors and some productive exercise. If pushing a mower proves painful, consider a riding mower, explore newer robot style mowers, or hire someone to mow for you.

 

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