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Part I of II: Prevention of Hand Injuries Associated with Gardening

Farmers and gardeners in NEPA always say that Memorial Day, the “kick off” day for planting without the fear of frost, however, it is not too early to start to prepare…not only the beds but your body! While gardeners are anxious to work in their gardens and enjoy the fruits of their labor, a relaxing and enjoyable activity can turn dangerous quickly. Precautions are necessary as repetitive stress injuries such as shoulder and elbow tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome can stem from raking, weeding, digging and pruning. Additionally, simple scrapes, blisters, and bites can turn into serious problems if not treated appropriately.  Since prevention is the best approach, the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT) promotes warm-up exercises and injury prevention tips to help all levels of gardeners avoid serious and long-term injuries while enjoying this popular outdoor activity.

ASHT recommends following these upper extremity warm-up exercises prior to gardening:

Note:  These exercises should never be painful when completing them.  You should only feel a gentle stretch. Hold 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. Should you experience pain, please consult a physician or hand therapist.

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

1. Forward Arm Stretch: Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward.  You should feel a stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers. (PHOTO 1)

2. Overhead Arm Stretch: Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms overhead.  You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand. (PHOTO 2)

3. Crossover Arm Stretch: Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder.  This stretch for the upper back and shoulder and should be performed on both sides. (PHOTO 3)

ASHT recommends the following guidelines to prevent injury and foster healthy gardening practices:

Professional Contributor: Nancy Naughton, OTD, CHT, is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist practicing in NEPA. Model: Heather Holzman

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  Next Week: “Prevention of Gardening Injuries” Part II of II.  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. Access of all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at our Health and Exercise Forum.