Weeds aren’t the only ones in danger when you’re tirelessly doing garden chores. Gardening can turn dangerous without proper precaution—and repetitive motion may result in tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The American Society of Hand Therapists offers tips to prevent serious and long-term injuries in the garden.
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, or suede gloves help protect your hands from thorns, cuts, and scrapes.
Keep your hands and arms covered. Be especially careful if you’re working in a spot where you may disturb a snake, spider, or rodent. By wearing gloves and long sleeves, you’ll also be better protected from poison ivy, insect bites, and other common skin irritants.
Take a break every hour or switch to another activity. Overuse of repetitive motions, such as digging, can cause tendonitis of the elbow or lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Break up large tasks into short sessions, with a rest and stretch break between sessions.
Use a tool when digging into unfamiliar areas. Buried sharp objects can cause tendon lacerations or punctures. Use the correct tool for the task at hand to avoid accidental injury.
Store tools to prevent accidents. Keep sharp tools out of the reach of children at all times. Put tools away after use to prevent future injuries.
Use wide-handled tools. Use tools with padded or thicker handles to protect smaller joints in your hands. Hold your wrist in a neutral or straight position to help prevent injuries in your wrist and forearm.
Avoid constant gripping and awkward motions. 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 tendonitis.
Plan ahead. Use a basket or large-handled container to carry supplies to the garden. Carry the basket with both hands, distributing the workload equally and decreasing stress in the joints of your upper body.
Don’t sit back on your knees. Bending your knees this far is tough on your knee joint and requires you to push most of your body weight up with your hands and wrists, placing increased pressure on these joints. Instead, use a short gardening stool or bench.