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Don't Harvest Carpal Tunnel in Your Garden

Heed these tips on saving your wrists while you dig in the dirt

SUNDAY, April 18, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- When you're flexing your green thumb in the garden this year, make sure you don't sow the seeds of hand or wrist injuries.

That includes carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Garden work involves motions and activities that can contribute to development or aggravation of CTS, including repeated wrist motions, extended periods of hand movement, pounding and pushing with your hands, and working with poorly designed garden tools.

Some common garden chores associated with CTS include weed pulling, hoeing, planting, raking, transplanting and pruning, says information from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Symptoms of CTS include a weakened ability to grasp objects, wrist and finger pain, numb hands and fingers, cold fingers, or a "pins and needles" sensation in your fingers.

There are some simple ways to avoid developing CTS or to reduce CTS symptoms while you're gardening. Vary your garden activities and the motions of those activities. Take regular rests from doing repetitive motions. Make sure you use correct posture for all your gardening tasks.

The tools you use are important, too. Buy ergonomically designed tools that conform to your hand. You shouldn't force your hands to adapt to poorly fitting tools. Tool handles come in many different designs with varying kinds of diameters, coatings (anti-slip), contouring (finger grips), or coverings such as rubber.

When shopping for garden tools, take the time to test how they feel and fit your hands.

Gardening poses other potential hazards to your hands. Many garden tools can cut or pinch your fingers and hands. Always pay close attention to what you're doing when using such tools and wear gardening gloves.

More information

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association has some more garden safety tips.

SOURCE: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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