All avid gardeners are familiar with the C-P-P of their garden every year, namely clearing, preparing, and planting. These three activities are the backbone of a good garden, but can also be hazardous to your hands.
Doing too much too soon, or for too long a time, can lead to a few common hand injuries while working in the garden.
A forgotten P of gardening is pruning. Most gardeners do a lot of it without realizes that the continual opening and closing of shears and pruners can lead to a painful locking of fingers or thumbs. When this occurs, pain develops in the palm, or you can experience a locked finger pointing downward, forcing you to use your other hand to “unlock” it.
You want a green thumb, not a gamekeeper’s thumb. This is a chronic condition caused by repeated motion and stress on the ulnar ligament located on the inside of the thumb. Repeatedly opening and closing hand tools and clippers for gardening can cause Gamekeeper’s thumb and eventually make it difficult to open jars, use scissors, or hold heavy objects.
Continuous pain in the wrist develops from repeated motions and may include the following:
- Tendons that attach at the base of the thumb become irritated causing swelling and pain at the wrist.
- Overuse of the wrist tendons causes them to rub against each other resulting in friction, inflammation, and swelling, which can lead to forearm pain 3 inches above the wrist.
- Tasks like heavy raking can exacerbate these conditions.
Unknown to many gardeners is something called Rose Thorn Disease. A fungus found in soil and in rose thorns can enter your bloodstream through a simple rose thorn prick. It can take months to show any symptoms. At first there will be a purple or pink painless lesion which can spread up the arm as ulcers or open sores. You should seek the advice and treatment of OrthoNY hand and wrist specialists should any of these symptoms appear.
Simple Precautions to Prevent Hand Injuries While Working in the Garden
- Always wear gloves. Use suede or thick leather gloves when working with roses. Latex or rubber gloves are best when gripping tools or when working in the soil.
- Vary your activities and take breaks. Don’t stay on one repetitive task too long. When raking, trimming hedges, pulling weeds, or any other gardening job that requires repetitive motion, move from one job to another. Be sure to take breaks regularly to give your hands, back, and shoulders a rest.
- There is a tool for everything, so use it. Refrain from using your hands to do jobs a tool can do better and faster.
- Use the right tools. Select tools that are lightweight and include thick rubber handles to reduce stress on fingers when gripping. Ergonomic gardening tools are designed to lessen the grip force and can help reduce any inflammations.
- Keep your garden tools clean, and make sure your shears are well oiled and sharp.
You can enjoy the fruits of your labor all summer with a few precautions while working in the garden.