Is too much movement bad?

I move around a lot being a gardener, lots of stretching, bending, flexing. Now that I am down and out due to pain and swollen hands, wrists and fingers I was wondering if too much of the good thing of gardening is bad if suffering from Arthritis?

23 Replies

  • Hiya Breadfruit. As you've asked the question my answer is yes. I read you are a gardener in your previous posts & thought that you would start struggling but as it's your work didn't think it wise to say & worry you if you hadn't thought that far into the future. I used to have just short of 2000 sqm of garden & also did the odd bit of gardening on a community's garden with a friend a couple of days a week around the time of diagnosis & had to give both up. I continued to potter round my garden but could no longer dig to plant, kneeling & gripping tools a particular problem, or do other more manual jobs I could tackle before RD. I of course still had to crop the almonds when ready otherwise if left they'd just fall to the ground & that was harder work (had to get to them before my dogs did anyway else there'd be none left lol) but didn't do it as gung ho as I used to & did it over a week instead of a couple of days.

    You can only see how you manage but if you do struggle it maybe worth considering another branch of horticulture, some other form away from the physical work gardening as a job obviously takes?

  • I'm at the other end of the piece of string from Heel as my answer would be no - but it is a long piece of string and you could be anywhere in between. think you're quite newly diagnosed? Well if so, then wait and see how things go as if the meds work for you and you get the disease under control then you may well be able to continue depending on what type of gardening you do. I'm still completely amazed at how well I am now, compared to when I was diagnosed and could hardly get out of bed. At that point even getting to the bathroom was a challenge that could take all morning. And lifting a teaspoon was an achievement.

    We have about 3 hectares of garden, and today as well as a bit of light weeding I shifted about about half a ton of sand and 50 large rocks, took the dog for a 5 mile walk uphill most of the way, and then pottered about . I have to be careful, and not force things so I moved the sand in lots and lots of small sacks and used padded gloves and a running barrow for the rocks, and stopped for 5 minutes every half an hour - which may not be possible if you're working as a gardener with tasks to achieve in a set time. But if I don't exercise every day then things get loads worse. So some bending, flexing and stretching is actually good for you.

  • My word that's a considerable amount of land to tend & how I would like to be able to do what you do! You're correct of course in saying see how things go but my answer was from my perspective & how I am & appreciate we're all different. Exercise is still necessary & do the ones I can manage but my garden was my exercise before & I missed it even when we still had it if you get my drift! I just simply can't do the things I could like gripping trowels, use branch cutters etc even the ones meant for those of us with weak hands & little grip. On a good day I can just about manage ratchet secateurs but only for half an hour tops & that's not cutting thick stems & still feel the effect the next day my hands throb so. As I said she can only see how she manages & hopefully will be as well controlled as you are, but do think forewarned is forearmed.

  • Yes and no. The best thing you can do is ask to see either a specialist rheumatology physio or an OT about hand exercises,and get advice from them about what kind of movements you should and shouldn't do. An OT can also advise if there are any aids you can use to help you do awkward tasks, or show you different ways of doing things. The "right" exercises for RA hands, aren't always the kind of things you think would be right, so well worth getting proper advice. I know my mum swears by having got really good advice early on (she has had RA for 70 years now) that meant that she never had anywhere near as much deformity as early as her friends with RA did, and maintained a lot better function. Some of the arthritis support groups will also do exercise sessions too.

  • What does "OT" mean? Sorry but I do not know that abbreviation. Thanks

  • Occupational Therapist/Occupational Therapy.

  • Just had a discussion with my partner. He thinks because the blood test came back negative (no RA) I do not have RA. He thinks I am working myself into a frenzy.

    But the MRI clearly came back with the words "Arthritic processes". My hands are swollen and painful. Last night was the worst night.

    I found that working through that initial pain when I went for the MRI helped me. But then I was taking lots of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.

    Well lets see what the Specialist says on Monday. I took photos of my hands because my son got me some Voltaral extra strength and may mask my symptoms come Monday.

  • Just a quick thought, have you been on pain relief & anti inflammatories for all your tests as they can obviously alter results.

  • yes I was. a thought like that came to me too.

  • Damn, so easily forgotten.

  • Negative blood tests don't mean no RA - sadly. Try to get your OH to look at the NRAS website, as it will help if he understands too. Hope you have a good appointment on Monday.

  • Hello, I think a certain level of physical activity is good, but it's all very individual and also depends whether your RD/RA is controlled or not. I just wanted to add that when I was diagnosed four years ago, my blood tests were negative but I also had an MRI on my hands which showed I had RD in my hands, and they were also puffy, along with having stiffness and pain. Good luck with your appointment.

  • My bloods are negative but like you my hands are affected, RA was proved by an hand scan

  • I have already been buying things to help the way I do tasks. I even have battery powered edge grass cutters. I should have gotten those ages ago. There is also a battery powered secateurs. Will get one of those too. Actually more than one. Depending how long the batteries last.

    Dont lift anything over 20 litres. Do not have the strength to lift. I have lots of gloves. Some give good grip when lifting.

  • I would say just lay off the heavier gardening until you are diagnosed and on meds and do things slowly at the advice of a physio and an OT if possible. That said I'm of obstinate disposition and just worked my way round or through the pain when my RD was still undiagnosed and untreated. I don't think it's done me much harm as my joints are pretty flexible now and it's the fatigue and other related stuff that gets me down these days. Best to avoid anti-inflammatories for a few days when having blood tests and seeing the consultant but if you have photos then take them along too. A good rheumatologist will rely on symptoms first and foremost but you do have to hand it all to them on a plate (ouch sorry about the unfortunate metaphor!).

  • Hi

    Just wanted to add to the already good advice you have had. Yes carry on with lighter work within your pain limits for now. If you push through the pain then apart from the potential for joint damage, you will also be likely to be compensating for lack of free movement by using other muscles and joints to take the strain ie using your back far more to compensate for weaker arms. This can have a knock on effect causing problems elsewhere. Poor movement patterns can also be very hard to correct later once things are under control.

    Once things are under control and you can manage to strengthen up the affected muscles then you may well be able to carry on more or less as before. Adapted tools and lifting equipment etc sound like a good idea too, anything that will make your job a little easier.

    Good luck and as seems to be the case with this, have patience! X

  • I lived for my garden now I have all on to put a plant in a pot the more I try to do the more I suffer a short walk leaves my in pain and getting to the bathroom in the night is a challenge I grew a garden so I could photograph flowers now I can't even hold my slr camera but keep positive we are all different

  • My guess is the way you do it is the most important thing. Have you heard of the Alexander technique? The teacher would show you how to move your body safely. I wonder if an ordinary physiotherapist would help with this? I do believe exercise is very good but the way it is done is important, of course xx

  • I had one Physio session so far. Next one is on Wednesday. I will ask him about the Alexander technique.

  • I wrote a longish reply and then it disappeared, so I'm doing it again...

    Just before my aggressive onset of RD, I was doing some strenuous tree-lopping. The next day my shoulder was agony, but I assumed I'd pulled a muscle. Sports massage made it worse. Within a week, it had all started and within two weeks I couldn't move an inch. Now, a year later, on MTX. Sulfasalazine and Prednisilone ( and about to start Embrel), I regard my garden as my Organic Gym (have an aversion to the normal sort) and I try to do a little every day or so, but I can't do heavy work and if I over-use secateurs , for example, my hands are fairly useless the next day. And I do now get some help. It's a matter of balance and of pacing yourself , which isn't easy when it's your career. Having said that, I have never been good at pacing myself. I'd say I had two speeds: flat out (full pelt) and flat out (on the bed!)

    Now, I don't know if this will help you, but if not it might benefit someone else. I am a painter I have been granted a whole lot of ergonomically-friendly equipment by Access to Work, to help me continue with my art. In my case, this is a special perching stool, a rather special easel and a new chair. I also get a few hours support every month. I might post about this elsewhere, as I find it a really positive, life-affirming experience. I don't know if there are any gardening aids which would really help you.

    Good luck. Green fingers are better than red!

  • Hi Jora, Thank you for your reply. Its very much appreciated. I think I will have to do the same and pace myself. I do not know pacing myself. The problem is I feel really good after a days work, its the next day or the night that turns into agony.

    I already made friends with a tree surgeon, who I push all the hard tree lopping or tree removals to. I also do no hedges taller than 2 metres/6 feet.

    I do not do any hard core garden clearance anymore.

    LOL, there is not much left for me to do. But I do seem to get more and more people who have a nice garden but cannot keep up or want it scaled down.

    I bought battery powered hedge and grass clippers. Wow, they are good. I also saw a battery powered secateurs. They seem to be sold out everywhere. I got myself a battery powered hedge shearer as they are a lot lighter. I got myself a shredder so that I can just mulch the branches down.

  • All we need is battery-powered shoulders and knees!

    Be careful with the hedge-trimmers, though. My wrist collapsed whilst I was using mine and they slashed my thighs. That was before I had RD! I can't use them myself any more, but will certainly look into battery-operated secateurs. Thanks for that tip.

    Here's the link to Access to Work in case you think they could help you . It does cover self-employment, even though that is not immediately obvious. My awards for capital items amounted to a few thousand pounds, but unfortunately you can't claim for items already purchased.

    Pacing would be so much easier if the effect was consistent. Sometimes I suffer soon after, sometimes it's the next day, or during the night.

    There are so many gardening programmes on TV. I think there should be one for less-abled people.

  • thanks for the link. Will check it out.

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