“No pain, no glory.”
This is a quote that we normally hear in sports, but it can also be applied in gardening. The truth is if you’ve been doing gardening for quite some time already, you might have experienced few injuries already.
While some wounds can be easily treated, some injuries, especially those bone injuries, can pose a serious threat to your health. When left untreated, they can make us bid farewell to gardening forever… which we don’t want to happen!
This is why it’s important to know the causes, prevention, and treatment of the top 3 gardening injuries that you may acquire. This way, we could spend our days in the garden as long as we want to!
1. Gamekeeper's Thumb
A gamekeeper's thumb is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament that connects the thumb to the hand. It's a tear or trauma caused by over-insertion or excessive pressure to the thumb. When left untreated, it could make your grip weak.
Most gardeners acquire a gamekeeper’s thumb when pruning and grafting. Because they’re cutting through thick and hard stems, they tend to apply excessive pressure to their grip, especially on the thumb.
Using a sharp and durable grafting tool is the first step in preventing the gamekeeper's thumb as you will no longer need to exert much effort to prune your plants. You can also opt for those who have rubberized handles so that they can serve as cushion support to your grip.
You can also use wrist and thumb braces when pruning. This prevents any possible dislocation of thumb phalanges when gardening.
3-5 weeks of complete immobility on the hand affected is needed to heal the ligament. If there's only mild trauma, you would be required to wear a cast or a thumb spica splint to prevent any movement and to provide support. However, when there is a total tear on the ligament, surgery will be required.
2. Lower Back Pain
Most gardeners experience lower back pain. While it’s actually common to almost all workers, it can be a symptom of a herniated disc, sciatica, and even serious ailment in the spine. If your pain persists for more than 72 hours and is accompanied by fever, it's best to consult a doctor.
The most common reason for lower back pain among gardeners is the consistent bending down and lifting of heavy equipment. Instead of being redistributed to the legs, the pressure is fully exerted on the lower back. Improper posture while sitting and standing can also cause lower back pain.
Maintaining proper posture is the best way to prevent lower back pain. Instead of bending, you can try sitting properly with a stool. When lifting heavy objects, you should squat and redistribute the weight to your legs and shoulder.
We know that these reminders are easier said than done. This is why it’s best to wear gardening belts that can provide lumbar support and enforce proper posture when working.
Lower back pain can be eased by ibuprofen and cold compress. However, both of them can only give momentary comfort. Frequent consumption of painkillers can also damage your kidney and liver.
Inflatable gardening belts don’t just prevent lower back pain but rather treat them.
While rubberized lumbar braces only provide support, inflatable ones make use of the clinical-grade decompression method. They decompress the lower back and spine, triggering herniated discs to return to their normal positions. Furthermore, they target pressure points to acquire water, oxygen, and nutrients to heal the inflammation faster.
3. Elbow Epicondylitis
Elbow Epicondylitis, also known as golfer's elbow and tennis elbow, is also one of the most common injuries of gardeners. It's characterized by stiffness and throbbing pain on your thumb, hand, wrist, and all the way to your elbow.
Elbow epicondylitis is often caused by the excessive force exerted by the forearm area when digging and weeding. When gripping and holding into the weed, the elbow tends to get all the pressure instead of redistributing it from the hand to the shoulder and all the way to the upper back. This causes tears and trauma to the elbow joint.
Some cases of elbow epicondylitis on gardeners can also be associated with pulling and lifting heavy garden hose for a long period of hours when watering the garden. Others are caused by irregular squeezing into manual clippers when grafting and pruning.
The best way to prevent elbow epicondylitis is to get the right tools and equipment for gardening. For example, instead of manually pulling weeds, you can opt to use heavy-duty blade cutters that could pull weeds from their roots instead of just cutting them.
It will also help to get garden hose attachments that can increase the pressure of your water hose. This way, you can water your plants faster, and you can reach all the corners of your garden without the need to pull and lift your heavy garden hose around. However, for gardeners aged 60 and above, it’s best to install a drip irrigation system so you could water your plants with just one turn on your water supply.
Contrary to people’s belief, applying a cold compress and anti-inflammatory medicines can cause more harm than good when suffering from elbow epicondylitis. This is because they will just worsen the lack of blood circulation in the affected area.
When you already feel slight pain and stiffness in your forearm, it's best to stimulate blood flow by doing small and gentle hand and forearm stretches. Do it ever so gently and not abruptly, as it may even aggravate the tear on the elbow joint. You can also light massage the affected area.
Instead of applying a cold compress, you can get your arm into running water. This will both ease the pain and stimulate the blood flow.
If the pain and numbness persist, it’s best to consult the doctor. Limit any abrupt and strong movement from your fingers to your elbow before and during the treatment.
Learning about these common gardening injuries is an essential step in gardening. Remember that you can’t take care of your plants if you can’t take care of your own body! Who would look after your lovely garden but you?! So, stay healthy and always be mindful of these gardening injuries!