In springtime, I do a lot of digging and as a result I often get wrist tendinitis. Can you offer any approaches to gardening to avoid this painful occurrence?
Deni Kogen, St. Louis, MO
Contributing editor Barbara Blossom Ashmun replies: Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, the ropelike fibrous tissue that attaches muscle to bone. The inflammation can result from one forceful strain, or from a period of small, repetitive strains. Unfortunately, gardening activities like digging, raking, and pruning, in which the same actions are repeated over and over, can fall into the latter category, so tendinitis is a fairly common gardener’s malady. I’ve gotten relief from tendinitis pain myself by doing the following:
Work at any one task for shorter intervals than usual, varying the tasks so that you’re not overusing any one body part. For example, dig for a while, then pot up some plants, then do some weeding, then go back to digging.
Keep a paper cup nearly full of water in the freezer, and use it to ice off your wrist when it gets sore. Then alternate the ice with heat by soaking your hand in hot water. It will also help to rest the affected wrist and to retrain yourself to work with your other hand, even if it’s the left hand and you’re a righty.
Your doctor, chiropractor, or pharmacist can recommend a brace to stabilize the wrist while working, which will help minimize stress. Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen may help. Call your doctor if severe pain persists, or if pain is present for more than two weeks.