Whether you tend to a small backyard vegetable patch or have a cornucopia of flowers flourishing under your watchful eye, gardening can provide numerous benefits for people with chronic pain.

Although gardening postures of bending over or leaning on the knees can lead to or exacerbate pain, simple fixes for these issues abound. With care, gardening can do more than produce beautiful flora or food to eat—it can also heal your body and feed your soul.

1. Gardening offers low-impact exercise

While outside enjoying the sunshine, digging holes and pulling weeds, adults receive enough exercise to stay in shape, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Thinking of gardening as exercise is especially important for older adults, particularly those with chronic pain, who may avoid more vigorous forms of exercise and consequently not stay active enough. All that handiwork also strengthens the hand muscles, keeping them nimble, note researchers.

2. Nurturing a garden reduces stress and anxiety

Weeding and planting helps people forget their troubles and focus instead on the present moment, which reduces stress and anxiety, according to the Pain Society of Oregon. Reduced stress can in turn lessen the body’s inflammatory response, which can help to alleviate pain. As a bonus, calm feelings improve quality of life.

3. Garden-fresh produce provides abundant nutrients

Growing your own squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other delicious vegetables results in healthy additions for home-cooked cuisine. Produce straight from the garden is often more flavorful than supermarket produce, which has traveled for days to arrive at the store and is often picked before fully ripening.

If you’re trying to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet, growing your own allows you to enjoy all the benefits of gardening, nutritional and beyond.

Follow these tips for pain-free gardening:

  1. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sun, dirt, and wayward spikes on stems.
  2. Buy a pad to kneel on or cushions to strap on your knees to protect the delicate joints while in the garden.
  3. Invest in ergonomic tools. All of those hours outside using tools that force your hands into uncomfortable alignment can result in pain.
  4. Make sure to use proper form when lifting heavy objects such as bags of mulch or brand new trees. Bend at the knees or ask for help with especially heavy objects.
  5. Place containers or planters on a bench or table when working on them. This reduces the amount of bending required. 

Have you tried gardening to reduce chronic pain?

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

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