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News Letter

Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Smart Tips and Tools for Gardening with Arthritis Print E-mail

Despite their arthritis pain, Ralph and Louise Rennecker operate a bed and breakfast at The Herb Lady's Garden in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They maintain the pre-Civil War farmhouse and work together in the extensive gardens including a formal herb garden and large perennial beds.

The Renneckers maintain this active lifestyle despite some challenges posed by arthritis. Gardening is a top leisure activity for millions of Americans. Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States.

Ralph is 75 and has had both hips and a knee replaced due to severe arthritis. Louise has arthritis in her elbows and wrists and has had surgery on both shoulders. Still, they find ways to adapt to the aches and pains from gardening with arthritis.

Louise says, "If you're careful about what you do and how you do it, the activity can actually help."

Gardening Tips and Tools for Gardening with Arthritis

The Renneckers' top tip is don't kneel on hard surfaces. Louise and Ralph both use a stool that is padded on top and bottom. Turned upside down, the stool becomes a kneeling bench.

"When it's in the kneeling position, the legs make for ease in getting up, and the padding keeps your knees from contacting hard surfaces," Louise says.

She and Ralph also find their lightweight aluminum garden cart invaluable in maintaining the large property.

Other tips for managing arthritis pain while gardening include:

  • Pace yourself. Especially early in the season, work in short sessions. Don't work to the point of fatigue. Take time to warm up with some stretching and light effort. Do a variety of different tasks rather than tackling a large, repetitive task all at once.
  • Adapt. Some gardeners, like Louise and Ralph, use equipment like their convertible stool/bench to avoid "wear and tear" on their joints. Other gardeners use raised beds, container gardening and trellises to reduce the need for stooping and straining. Another way to save energy is by installing a permanent watering system that reduces the need for routine maintenance work and still allows you to produce a lush garden.
  • Use smart tools. Choose long handles on rakes and other tools to reduce bending. Special large-grip handles reduce strain on the wrists. Tools with adaptive contoured handles are available to ergonomically protect joints from excess strain. Use lawn carts to move materials. Avoid lifting and carrying things yourself.
  • Sit rather than stoop. There are a variety of seats, scooters and benches for gardeners. Change positions frequently, and avoid positions that put strain on your back.

It is also important to talk with your physician about your gardening with arthritis. Within limitations, gardening with arthritis provides good exercise that may help alleviate the stiffness that comes with the disease. However, you should follow the recommendations of your doctor.

Louise Rennecker sums up her philosophy on managing arthritis pain while gardening, "There are all kinds of tools to help gardeners with arthritis or other physical challenges. If you love gardening, find what works for you, and use it."


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