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08/Oct/2020

Gardening and musculoskeletal conditions

“We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us”. Jenny Uglow

With spring well and truly in the air, our gardens are coming alive 🌻🌼🌷. It’s the perfect time to get outside and dig in the dirt.

Gardening’s a wonderful way to get some fresh air and vitamin D 🌝. It can also be extremely relaxing, and a good workout. What’s not to love?

Sadly, for those of us who like to garden, there are times when our condition or our pain may affect our ability to garden as we’d like to. But there are many things you can do so that you can still get into your garden and enjoy yourself.

  • Pace yourself. I know, I know, we go on about pacing all the time 😉. But it’s so easy when you’re feeling good and you’re having a great time to get carried away. And then you pay for it the next day (or three). So don’t try to do too much in one go and remember to take regular breaks. This’s a good opportunity to rest – but also to drink some water while you sit back and admire your work, contemplate what to do next, and imagine future gardening projects 😊.
  • Warm up. Gardening is physical, so get your body ready for it, just as you would before doing any form of exercise. Do some stretches or go for a walk around your yard or the block so your muscles warm up and you feel looser. Then ease into the gardening.
  • Be aware of your posture and use good technique when lifting and carrying things. It’s easy – especially if you’ve been working all day and you’re a bit tired – for poor technique to slip in. Remember to carry things close to your body (or use a wheelbarrow or cart), be careful when kneeling or squatting that you don’t overbalance, and that you maintain the natural curve of your spine. Try not to stay in the same position or do lots of repetitive movements for long periods of time. Swap your activities so that you’re using a range of muscles and joints, rather than overworking one part of the body.
  • Contain it. Use pots and other containers for small, manageable gardens. This is perfect if you only have a small space, you live in a rental property or you want the flexibility to change plants and plant locations regularly. You can use regular garden pots or containers, or be creative and use other containers you have lying around – e.g. old wheelbarrows, teapots, colanders, tyres, boots. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas. Just make sure you have plenty of time – it’s a great place to lose track of time. You’ve been warned! 😂😂
  • Create raised garden beds and vertical gardens. This will take a bit more planning and work, but they allow you to access your garden with a lot less bending or kneeling. Perfect if you have a sore back, hips or knees. You can build your own –there are lots of videos and guides online to show you how to do this – or you can buy them in various shapes and sizes from gardening and hardware stores.
  • Use the right tools. There’s a huge range of gardening tools and equipment to help you manage in the garden including:
    • gardening gloves – protect your hands and wear decent gloves. It’s worth paying a bit more and getting a good quality pair (or two) that provide good grip and protect your skin.
    • tools that work for you – including ratchet style secateurs that allow you to cut branches with much less effort (they do all the hard work), and long handled tools that save you from having to bend down to weed or from stretching overhead to reach branches.
    • thicker handled garden tools – perfect for anyone with sore hands or difficulty gripping. You can also buy thick rubber or foam tubing from the hardware store, cut it to length and fit it over the handles of your existing gardening tools.
    • wheelbarrows and garden carts – to help you carry heavier items from one place to another, or to carry several smaller things in one go. Just be careful not to overload it and try to move more than you know you should. Listen to your body.
    • cushioned knee supports – knees pads, kneeling mats, or even gardening stools can help cushion and protect your knees and help you get up and down off the ground.
  • Get some help. Whether it’s family, friends, or a local handyman or gardener, get some help if you have some big jobs that need doing – e.g. creating raised garden beds, pruning trees, mowing lawns. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Save the things you really enjoy and let someone else tackle the less enjoyable jobs 🌼😊
  • Stay hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Gardening can be hot, strenuous work, so don’t let yourself become dehydrated. Keep a water bottle close by.
  • Have a warm shower after your exertions. It can help loosen up muscles that have become tight while gardening. After your shower, don’t immediately sit down if you can help it. If you’re feeling a bit stiff, go for a short walk. You’ll feel so much better for it in the long run.
  • Talk with an OT. An occupational therapist can help you find ways to modify your activities to reduce joint pain and fatigue and save energy. They can also give you tips and ideas about different aids and equipment available to make gardening easier and more enjoyable.

With the weather warming up, getting outdoors and playing in the garden is a wonderful way to forget the worries of the world, for a while at least (COVID-who?) 😉. So plant some bright flowers in pots or garden beds around the entrance to your house. Prune trees and shrubs and remove any dead winter growth. Add some mulch to the gardens beds. Plant some vegies for summer salads. Then grab a cold drink, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful. Jim Carrey

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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27/May/2018

Gardening, pain and musculoskeletal conditions

Gardening’s a wonderful way to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. It can also be extremely relaxing, and it’s often a good workout.

But if your condition sometimes impacts on your ability to garden, there are many things you can do so that you can still get into your garden and enjoy yourself.

  • Pace yourself – don’t try to do too much in one go. And take regular breaks. This’s a good opportunity to rest – but also to sit back and admire your work, contemplate what to do next, and imagine future gardening projects.
  • Contain it – use pots and other containers for small, manageable gardens. You can use regular garden pots or containers, or be creative and use other containers you have lying around – e.g. old wheelbarrows, teapots, colanders, tyres, boots. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas.
  • Create raised garden beds – this will take a bit more planning and work, but by raising your garden beds you can access them with less bending or kneeling. Perfect if you have a sore back, hips or knees.
  • Use thick handled tools – there are a wide range of thicker handled garden tools that are great if you have painful hands or difficulty gripping. You can also buy thick rubber or foam tubing from the hardware store, cut it to length and fit it over the handles of your existing gardening tools.
  • Use cushioned knee supports – knees pads, kneeling mats, or even gardening stools can help cushion and protect your knees and help you get up and down off the ground.
  • Get some help – whether it’s family, friends, or a local handyman or gardener, get some help if you have some big jobs that need doing – e.g. creating raised garden beds, pruning trees, mowing lawns. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
  • Keep hydrated – make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Gardening can be hot, strenuous work, so don’t let yourself become dehydrated. Keep a water bottle close by.
  • Talk with an OT – an occupational therapist can help you find ways to modify your activities to reduce joint pain and fatigue and save energy. They can also give you tips and ideas about different aids and equipment available.

These are just a few things you can do to stay active in the garden, so that you can get out in the fresh air and enjoy getting your hands dirty. If you love to garden, and have suggestions or tips for others, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.


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26/May/2018

Make your life easier with aids, equipment and other gadgets

Do you find that at times you struggle with everyday tasks?

When you have a musculoskeletal condition, simple things like pulling on your shoes, opening jars, combing your hair or sitting for long periods can sometimes become difficult and painful.

The good news is there are a variety of aids, gadgets and other equipment available to help you manage. They can also help reduce stress on your muscles and joints, save energy, prevent fatigue and basically make your life easier.

There are gadgets that can help you with everything from cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, driving, gardening, using technology and working.

Some things – e.g. kitchen utensils or gardening tools with thick handles that are easier to hold– can be found in many of the stores we already shop at.

Other items need to be bought from specialty stores or pharmacies. Or you may be able to modify objects that you already own – e.g. if you have sore hands, foam tubing can be used to create an easier grip on your pens.

Because there are so many options, it’s helpful to speak with an occupational therapist (OT) to get specific information and advice.

OTs work in the public and private sectors. You can access them through public and private hospitals, community health centres, independent living centres and private practice.

As well as helping you with aids and equipment, OTs can help you learn better ways to do everyday activities to help you:

  • protect your joints
  • reduce the pain caused by doing certain activities
  • save energy.

They can also provide advice about pacing your day and activities so you can achieve a balance between activity and rest.

The important thing to keep in mind is that there are many aids and gadgets available that can make your life easier. You don’t have to struggle.

Talk with an OT today.

You can also contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 and speak with a nurse or trained volunteer for information about living well with a musculoskeletal condition. We’re here to help!




Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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