'Tis the season to bring out the garden! With the "spring of COVID-19", record number of people have spent spring time at home. People are planting vegetables, flowers, and working on those much needed landscaping projects in record numbers. Whether it be growing tomatoes, planting flowers, or mowing and mulching, taking care of one's hands is a must.
Take a dig at some great seeds of knowledge on taking care of those hands when working in the yard and garden. The American Society of Hand Therapists recommends these tips to safely garden.
10 Ways To Protect Hands And Arms While Gardening
- DO-Wear gloves at all times. Bacteria and fungus live in the soil and a small irritation or cut can develop into a major hand infection. Thick, leather gloves may protect your hands from thorns, cuts and scrapes.
- DO-Keep your hands and arms covered. Be especially careful if you live in an area where you may disturb a snake, spider, or rodent living in your garden. You will be better protected from poison ivy, insect bites, and other common skin irritants that may inhabit a garden.
- DO-Take a break every hour or switch to another activity. Overuse of repetitive motion such as digging, can cause tendinitis of the elbow or lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Break large tasks into short sessions, with stretching breaks between gardening sessions.
- DO-Use a tool when digging into unfamiliar new areas. Buried sharp objects can cause tendon lacerations or punctures. Use the correct tool for the task at hand in order to avoid injury.
- DO-Store your tools to prevent accidents. Learn how to use and store your tools correctly to prevent accidents, keep sharp tools out of reach of children at all times. Also, make sure to put all tools away after use to prevent future injuries.
- DO-Use wide-handled tools. Use tools with thicker handles to protect the smaller joints in your hands.
- DO-Avoid awkward motions. Working with your wrist in a more neutral or straight position will help prevent injuries in the wrist and forearm.
- DO-Plan ahead. Use a basket or large container to carry supplies to the garden. The basket should be carried with both hands to distribute the workload equally and decrease stress in the joints of your upper body.
- DO-Use both hands for heavy activities like lifting a bag of potting soil and alternate hands on more repetitive tasks like scooping dirt out of the bag into a pot. Sustained grip and repetitive motions can cause pain and lead to tendinitis.
- DON'T-Sit back on your knees. Bending the knees this far is not only a hard position for the knee joint but it requires you to push most of your body weight up with your hands and wrist, placing increased pressure on these joints as well. Instead, use a short gardening stool or bench.
By Angela Polmateer, OTR, CHT
Occupational Therapist, Franciscan Health Lafayette East