Gardening with arthritis

If you have arthritis, just bending over to pull a weed can seem like a day's work. But a few simple techniques and tools can help restore the joy of gardening and ease the pain.

In fact, this hobby can actually improve your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says gardening is a great low-impact aerobic exercise for people with arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation and other experts offer these tips to ease arthritis pain when gardening:

Bring the garden to you

  • Sit on a stool or chair to be closer to your work.
  • Plant your flowers or vegetables in containers, and put them in convenient places.
  • Have a raised bed built. Make sure it's high enough to be comfortable for you.
  • Attach hanging outdoor plants to pulleys so that they can be lowered for watering or pruning.
  • Grow climbing varieties of peas and beans on a trellis for easy harvesting.

Use the right gear

  • Wear a tool belt or apron with big pockets for your supplies.
  • Drop seeds down a 3-foot section of 1- or 2-inch-diameter PVC pipe so that you don't have to bend over.
  • Try tools with telescoping handles that adjust to your sitting or standing positions. Some tools are designed to easily increase pruning force.

Protect yourself

  • Use knee pads or a foam kneeling pad.
  • Buy tools with enlarged handles for easier gripping, or pad them yourself with foam tubing or a self-adhesive bandage.

Make your garden work for you

  • Create wide paths for easy access.
  • Spread straw or other mulch around plants to conserve moisture, and use soaker hoses for more efficient watering.
  • Sprinkle the garden with water before you weed—weeding is easier in damp earth.
  • Buy young plants instead of seeds, and choose perennials if you don't enjoy replanting in the spring.

Take it easy

It's easy to overdo it when you're enjoying yourself. You can avoid problems by checking with your doctor first and then listening to your body. Pace yourself, and take a rest now and then. There's no better place than a garden to stop and smell the roses.

reviewed 9/17/2019

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