Gardening Safety in Honor of Hand Therapy Week

drawling of hands holding an arm

Tidewater Physical Therapy is home to three Certified Hand Therapists; an accomplishment we are very proud of. Hand therapy involves evaluating and treating injuries and conditions within the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand. Hand therapists are licensed or registered occupational therapists (OT) or physical therapists (PT) who specialize in treating individuals with conditions affecting these areas. Hand therapists carry the title of Certified Hand Therapist or CHT.

When the first full week of June arrives, we here at Tidewater Physical Therapy announce to our community that it is officially, “Hand Therapy Week.” Hand Therapy Week was established by The American Society of Hand Therapy in order to raise awareness of the hand therapy specialty among various audiences, including primary care providers, surgeons, referral sources, and the public.

To do our duty in promoting hand-health, our CHT’s decided that for Hand Therapy Week 2017, they would like share some tips and tricks of the trade, to help our gardening population on Delmarva.

Hand injuries such as repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can all occur from gardening. In addition, simple scrapes, blisters, and bites can turn into serious problems if not treated appropriately. While gardening is an enjoyable and relaxing activity for most, it can become dangerous in certain conditions.

Certified Hand Therapist and Clinical Director of Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Salisbury clinic, Jennifer S. Hamilton, DPT, CHT, recommends, “As the weather warms up, it is exciting to get outside and work in the yard or garden.  Remember the importance of listening to your body as you go about those tasks.  If you start to feel any pain or soreness in your hands and arms, take a break.  It may be beneficial to perform some stretching exercises that your therapist has given you.  Make your daily gardening goals realistic – don’t expect to be able to complete your entire yard in a day – instead plan to spread the work out over several days in order to prevent pain and overuse.”

Certified Hand Therapist and Clinical Director of Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Seaford clinic, Craig L. Joachimowski, PT, OCS, CHT, guides, “When performing yard work garden tools may make certain tasks easier. Tools should be light enough to handle with ease and the handles should fit in your hand comfortably.  Remember to use the bigger muscles in your shoulders and arms rather than the putting stress on the smaller joints of the hands. Make sure to wear gloves that fit well, particularly when working in brush or with plants that are sharp or have thorns. Preventing cuts and scratches is very important to all but especially to those with diabetes.

Certified Hand Therapist and Clinical Director of Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Ocean Pines clinic, William Hamilton, Jr., DPT, CHT, advises, “A helpful tip that I like to share with my patients who enjoy gardening is to stretch before you start. A stretch called the, “Prayer,” stretch is a great one to do beforehand. More importantly, you should ensure that you are using both hands equally to prevent overuse of the dominant hand. Also, taking breaks every 30 minutes to shake your hands out and restore normal blood flow will help prevent injury.”

Tidewater Physical Therapy would like to ensure the safety of everyone this gardening season. Next time you pick up a trowel or rake, keep these tips in mind.