Gardening with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be very difficult, especially when a long day of shoveling, raking, or weed pulling leaves you with a painful or "tingling" hand or wrist. These aches and pains are often caused in part by improper techniques or tools used in gardening.
Repetitive motion injuries such as CTS result from performing a task or motion repeatedly without giving the body time to rest, recuperate and repair from the activity. These injuries may also be increased by awkward positions or postures, vibration, and using hands to pound or push on things.With carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive wrist and/or finger movements out of the neutral position (the slightly upward bent position where the least amount of strain is put on the wrist) can lead to injury. The injury occurs in the carpal tunnel (the area composed of small bones and an encircling ligament at the base of the hand) (Figure 1). Flexor tendons (the tendons that generate finger movement) and/or the synovium (the lining of the carpal tunnel) become swollen and inflamed. These inflamed tendons then press against other body parts in the carpal tunnel, quite frequently against the median nerve.
The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel, conducting impulses from the brain down the arm to the thumb, forefinger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. When pressed, numbness and tingling may occur. Blood flow through the carpal tunnel may also be reduced, often resulting in cold fingers.
The factors that contribute to this condition include:
Women are also more prone to develop CTS than are men. In addition, CTS can be further aggravated or negatively influenced by the following conditions:
It is possible to enjoy gardening without pain or risk of developing CTS by using the following simple techniques:
Tool handles are available with varying designs relative to diameter, attachment angles, coatings (anti-slip), contouring (finger grips), coverings (rubber cushioning), etc., that fit individuals better. Test tools before buying.
Using these techniques, many of the activities of gardening that can cause or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome can be avoided.
Reviewers: Dawn Alleman, Bonnie Appleton, Traci Gilland, Alan McDaniel
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, re-print, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Alan L. Grant, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009