Gardening Pain Prevention Guide

Set realistic gardening goals now, planning time for recoveryrest and stretching, so you can stay outside and active all summer long! 

Clearing, raking, lifting, digging, and pruning can often lead to pain and/or injury, particularly after a long winter of inactivity. Symptoms of cramping, locking, swelling, burning, tingling, and general pain are common as the gardening season starts up. Read through these tips from our Physical Therapists for happy hands, arms, and backs!

The Right Tools

Wear Proper-Fitting Gloves

Gardening gloves are great for protecting your hands, but they need to fit well. Look for gloves that fit snugly, enhance your grip, and have enough flexibility to not impede your dexterity.


Use Ergonomic Tools

Gardening involves lots of repetitive movements that can strain specific muscles and joints. Invest in ergonomically designed tools that are designed to reduce that stress. Your hands and wrists will thank you later!

Proactive Management

When we do more than our body is prepared for (which is easy to do early in the season!), there is potential not only for increased soreness and pain, but for tissue irritation. Be mindful of your total number of working hours in a day and the number of days in a row you garden, especially early in the season as you build back up. Rest periods that break up consecutive hours and planning relative recovery days that follow longer days with the land can make all the difference in giving our bodies the opportunity for adequate recovery.  

Plan in rest periods ahead of time with opportunities to rest, hydrate, and recover!

Recovery Smarts

Gardening involves sustained postures and repetitive movements that can cause irritation, tenderness, stiffness, and pain. While using our body is healthy, there are active things we can do during our ‘rest periods’ that can make all the difference in our comfort at the end of the day and in preventing a persistent pain problem from starting. Schedule in regular breaks with self massage for sore forearms, palms, and thumbs, hydration and active stretching exercises. Here are a sampling of exercises designed to enhance circulation, increasing oxygenation and nutrition to tissues while moving out waste products. 

Hands & Arms:

Pain in the hands and arms is prevalent among gardeners. Symptoms of tennis elbow, trigger finger, wrist tendonitis, and DeQuervain Syndrome are common to see. These hand and arm exercises can help:

Back & Legs

Our backs and legs are particularly vulnerable from sustained periods of being bent over. Periodically standing upright, placing the palms of our hands on the back of our hips and doing 10 back-bends can go a long way towards reducing or preventing lower back, and sometimes leg pains

BOTTOM LINE: Be mindful of what your body is telling you and address minor aches and pains before they develop into something worse!

Gardening Injury Treatment

If pain and problems persist, don’t hesitate to get help! Painful gardening conditions can often be reversed with the help of a skilled physical therapist, especially when addressed early. Happy gardening!

“Within a week I was already starting to notice improvements. Not having a free weight gym at my home Marsha was able to give me some examples of products within my home that I could use for substitutes such as a soup can for strengthening my wrist, rubber bands for finger strengthening and such. These wrist exercises were easy to do anytime of the day… It brought hope back very very quickly.” -D.B. 

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