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Caring for your Knees when gardening

The knee is the largest joint in the human body. It is a hinge-like joint that is subject to constant pounding, bending, and twisting from everyday activities, as well as the impact of falls and the effects of arthritis. Since the knee supports nearly the entire weight of the body and has high joint mobility, it is one of the most susceptible to injuries.

Knee Joint

Housemaids/Gardeners Knee is the most common form of knee bursitis and is caused by the inflammation (swelling) of the Prepatellar Bursa which sits in front of the knee cap. Prolonged or repetitive kneeling causes friction and puts pressure on the bursa and kneecap. The bursa gradually gets inflamed and swells, becoming painful and putting pressure on the surrounding structures.

If you do suffer with knee pain, particularly after gardening, it can help to ease discomfort if you put an ice pack on your knees. Just remember - RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Ice is thought to act by reducing blood flow and thereby reduces inflammation around the joint.

Many people brush off knee pain when they first start to experience it and believe that it will eventually go away. Early diagnosis is key to preventing more severe and irreversible damage. If you have a sharp, intermittent, localised pain you should get checked out earlier rather than later in order to stop some conditions getting worse.

The muscles that protect the knees are the quadriceps (front of thighs) and the hamstrings (back of the thighs). To ease strain on the knees, practice strengthening exercises regularly, and stretch before starting gardening activities.

ways to avoid knee injuries:

  • Warm up (stretch) your leg muscles before and after you exercise.
    Knee pads are very good for cushioning your knees against the floor. Useful for so manu household tasks.
  • Wear good shoes that fit well and are right for the kind of sport or exercise that you are doing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your knees.
  • Use knee pads to protect your knees whilst kneeling.  They will help to prevent swelling of the knee cap.
  • If you don’t like the idea of strapping on knee pads you can always use a
    These dungarees are perfect when you are planting out. Will keep you clean and dry and also protect your knees.

    kneeling cushion or dungarees with built in knee cushions.

  • Strengthen your leg muscles by doing specific exercises - walking up stairs or hills, or riding a stationary bicycle.  An easy excersise to fit into your daily routine is getting out of a chair without using your arms.  Strength training in general is always good as we lose muscle as we age (basically it's all down hill after 30!)
  • Squatting is very good if done correctly  -  keep feet flat with weight evenly distributed. Squatting with heels off the ground can potentially damage knee ligaments.
  •  Preferred work positions would be having one knee on the ground, working on hands and knees using a kneeling pad, or sitting on a chair or stool. If you use a chair or stool, place it close to the area where you are working and use long handled tools to avoid straining the upper body.
  • Raised beds can make gardening easier, reducing the need to stoop or bend down to get close to the soil. The height of raised beds can be adjusted to suit the gardener’s needs. Raised beds with wide borders can offer a convenient place to sit while working. The width of raised beds should be narrow enough to allow the gardener to work without straining or reaching.
  •  Ask others for assistance with tasks that are difficult or cause strain.
  • Buy garden supplies in small, light-weight quantities.
  • Take frequent breaks and rotate between jobs so that back or knees are not strained for long periods of time.
  • Be aware of situations that could lead to a fall such as a wet lawn or loose gravel.
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