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Helpful Ideas for Kneeling and Gardening with Arthritis

21 years ago

Hi, I'm a newbie here. I suffer from osteoarthritis in hands, shoulders, back, neck. Knees are stiff and wobbly, but not yet unuseable. So maybe if you are like me at all, you might like to hear my management tips:

Whenever I need to be on my knees weeding, etc., I use two things:

1). I have 2 pair of my DD's old volleyball kneepads that I have handsewn eggcrate mattress foam inside of for even more cushion. My DD bought them at Academy. I wear 1 pair at a time on top of my old gardening jeans. When I have to wash them, I put them in a hosiery zip mesh bag or a pillowcase first.

2). I have an old child's daycare nap mat, the kind that folds up. These can be bought at Wal-mart. It is vinyl and is tri-folded, I keep it folded for more cushion. (I leave it outside, and just wipe clean). I throw it down wherever I need to kneel, and together with my kneepads, this does the trick for me. (I also do not stay in that position longer than 10 minutes tops!!!!) I bought two Garden Claws and when the back pain is real bad, I use them on each side of me to help get down and up again.

I have found that with my stiffening and aging body, I better not get out to do gardening without a thorough warm-up first. I stretch the muscles I'll be using, and then I get up every 10-15 minutes and do it again. I also take omega-3, flax and fish oils every night without fail so I am oiled for the next day . I do not take any prescription medicine, even though I've been given it, because it just compromises my life quality too much in other areas. So far, I can do that. I live with pain a lot. Oh, and I have a swimming pool and a hot tub in backyard, and I use both daily. (A hot tub is an excellent year-round investment, IMHO).

I also follow a low-carb diet, but that works best for me, maybe not you. My aches and pains are much reduced, I have found, along with my indigestion and dry skin.

One last thing: my morning stretchout/workout is very painful for me and something I literally have to endure, but I find that it makes the rest of my day better. Plus, any gardening goes smoother and never feels as bad as what I do first thing every day . My day is ALWAYS a breeze after that!

With arthritis, the Will must prevail over the Pain! Good wishes to all, have enjoyed reading the posts.

Comments (26)

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Baybrat,
    Wow - do you ever have a great attitude!! I too, have arthritis in my hands, feet and knees, and wondered what other people did. I am new to this forum as well. Thank you so much for sharing all of your tips with the rest of us. I'll be looking to posts from you on this and other sites and I am definitely going to try many of the things you suggest.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You must really love gardening to go thru all of your pains ands aches, Good on you, don't give up your love for gardening! Have you tried kneeling pads? Can you get these where you live? I live in New Zealand. If you can.t purchase one of these try a water bottle! Just a suggestin
    you might find this as good as what you are using.

    Happy Gardening!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you both, Elly and Catherine, for your kind words and advice. I last posted in Sept, it is now Feb. I've been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis now, and have had to agree to aggressive meds. They are helping greatly, though.

    I still "fight" daily to retain mobility. Believe it or not, here is what I use first thing every morning to crunch my joints into mobility: an Ab-Doer machine. Upon wakening, I sit on this thing as my coffee makes, and bend and stretch and pivot, and hear the most horrible scrapings and crunchings, yet this makes my body ready to greet the day. I don't think the Ab-Doer is worth a flip as an abdominal exerciser, a lite one at that, but it is wonderful for arthritics as a warm-up exerciser. And 5 of my arthritic friends from therapy class all have one, too, and equally swear by it. We all have spine problems of one sort or another.

    Just another little tip....

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You're amazing. OK, I feel like a total sloth now! I really admire your spirit.

    I'm curious, why don't you build or have built the bed a lot higher, do square foot/lasagna stuff, so you don't need to be getting down on your knees?


  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, PJ. I have only a small backdoor plot of herbs, so the amount of kneetime is manageable. So, too, because my knees are not yet afflicted so badly (and knockwood that continues!). So, my pads and time limits do the trick. Raised beds would be awkward where I currently garden.

    I recently heard about a cool raised garden idea, but I will post it as a new topic.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Baybrat,

    I applaud your determination. The kneeling down,applying pressure to your knee caps and then the strain of getting back up sounds painful. Have you considered container gardening. There are many pluses to that method of gardening. What is especially useful to someone with pain issues is that it brings the garden up to you. Less body strain & closer for you to enjoy. You can put the container on wheels and move them around to suit your needs and also bring the bloomers up close and move them to the background when they are done. Also you can have a lot of fun designing with your containers. You can use all sorts of material for containers. Like milk crates, cinderblocks, tires (stacking them if you need the height), trash bags filled with soil, old teapots, tins, boots and windowboxes. Express yourself with a container garden.

    Hope this is helpful


  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It really does my heart feel great to see how this forum has taken off. I am so glad that there are so many people out there, more than willing to help and encourage those with disabilities. Actually, I knew it from the very start when a few very dedicated people started this forum. There were some who tried to disuade us and I am so glad they were not successful. I have not posted here in a long time, however, the magnet keeps pulling me back just to hover and see how well things have turned out. Would just like to mention a word of caution. There are some who would try to disguise their help in the form of helping you. Before you invest your hard earned money on some well known brand name tools and aides, you owe it to yourself to check the prices. It is not too difficult when dealing with Name Brands. I agree that one should buy the best products they can afford, as it will cost you less in the long run. However, there are Canadian Sponsors of GardenWeb who are VERY reputable and their prices are very competitive. They ship to the US as well. Before buying be certain whether the prices quoted are in Canadian or US dollars. If you are a Canadian and purchase a product from the US, just know that the price will be converted to Canadian Dollars when you get your bill. That will add at least 50% more to the cost. It would also do no harm for the US citizens to know that when they purchase from a Canadian Company and pay with their US dollars the final price can be approx. 50% less (even taking into account shipping and handling charges.) What I am trying to say is : "Buyer beware"
    Hope this horrid weather starts to warm up so that those of us who still have our gardens buried under 4 to 5 feet of snow, will be able to take stock of what survived this winter and what did not. Hope non of us lost too much.
    P.S. The company I was referring to before is Gardenscape
    They are the nicest people to deal with and if you order a product and it does not measure up to your needs, they will exchange it or refund your money without a hassle. They have a toll free number 1-888-472-3266. Just call and they will send you a colour catalogue free,
    For anyone who might think I have an interest in this company, you can rest assured that I have no interest other than to see that everyone gets the best deal and service possible. Oh, to see the little garden again. Happy and safe gardening to all. Punky.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow. I'm 38 years old, I don't have anything diagnosed wrong with my joints (except for the TMJ) but I don't do ANYTHING on my knees. I sit down to work the flower beds --right on the ground, often cross-legged (wear out the seat of my shorts that way). I can't kneel for any length of time. If sitting on the ground is too low, I'll sit on a block or paint can or something else.

    God bless and godspeed to retaining mobility!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    So good to see this forum. I have a few other hints that might be helpful, and please know that I understand your pain. I carry large pots, rocks, etc. around the yard with a dolly...... such a great help. Before the dolly, I used a luggage carrying cart, that you can find at garage sales for a dollar or so. A square life preserver cushion works well for sitting on, while working in the beds. To get down to the cushion, I use a type of kneeling chair, that I purchased some years ago, and also wear kneeling pads. I always wear a back brace for I have rods, nuts and bolts holding my spine together, and other then arthritis, neuropathy in both feet and left leg, Im doing pretty well. If the good lords willing, and the creek don't rise, may we all enjoy for many many years..... the great gift of gardening.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spirits all !
    Many thanks...can not wait to begin this year ( after May 24 in what may really be zone 2, Didsbury, Alberta.)
    more then...

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Food for thought:

    If we weren't out enjoying gardening, what substitute activity would any of us be doing that would exercise and tone our hurting bodies? I say we should all reach up, over the shoulder, and give ourselves a pat on the back! Long live gardeners and their gardens!


  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have arthritis, too, and my knees are the worst. What I've found helpful (in addition to a kneeler/seat) is to work on one knee. That's much easier on me for some reason than kneeling or squatting. I sit a lot, too. And I'm always on the lookout for tools that can be used standing. I'm still looking for a contact applicator for Roundup.

    Another important thing is to move around a lot. I'm sure my neighbors think my gardening is inefficient, because I'll weed a spot for 15 minutes, then get up and go spray the roses, come back to the weeding, look for my water bottle, weed some more . . . It probably isn't very efficient, but is much easier on me.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    i just discovered the fiskars stik cultivator and LOVE it - and what you're doing about rotating activities every 15 minutes of so is PERFECT for reducing stress on your body - everyone should be working that way as it reduces the chance of repetitive stress injuries

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Beatrice, that's my way of handling it. I throw an old flattened box on the ground, and work from there.

    Of course, getting back up is another matter entirely.

    Hadn't thought about eggcrate in the kneepads, I LIKE that!

    Between arthritis, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and fibro, moving around in the garden hurts, but it gets me outside, and the results are so worth it.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Check out my garden rocker post below and use the link to see it. Another gardenwebber introduced it and she likes it. You can kneel with it without putting all your weight on it. It is cheaper without the cushion.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ah, I too am a determined gardener despite the discomforts it brings. Like Cheryl I do one activity and change to another. Stand for this, sit for that, scoot for access, pull up with stick (old tree pruned limb). Now if my bladder problem would quit making me run inside too often I might get something done.

    One thing I found to work was an old "hunters hot seat" (you know that plastic round thing with little beads in it that heat up the toushie) keeps the knees or my cocyx warm while weeding. That reduces pain with heat applied during kneeling and working. Of course like others I only use one knee down. The other ankle won't bend backwards to allow kneeling.

    Also for planting seeds I found it much easier to drop seeds from my packet down a slim little pvc tube. Mark depth on it, push it in, pull it out & blow out the soil then drop the seed down and use the pipe to refil the hole!

    I use the soaker hose (drip seeping kind) made from recycled tires or something like that. Wind it in garden and leave in place. Just turn on the faucet slightly and let it run. You can even bury them under mulch in the perinial beds and it decreases leaf/watering sickness. Besides that no one else knows it is on.

    Another thing for us to consider is mulching and no till gardening. Plant in square blocks you can reach into the center from all sides. Use equal distance spacing and/or taller stuff in the center (or trellis stuff) and lower stuff around the sides and corners.

    Last year this was my harvest from a suburbian backyard lot that shared space with a 2.5 car garage:
    5 bushes apples
    red raspberries
    seedless blackberries
    bush beans
    acorn squash
    sweet alyssium
    bleeding hearts
    tiger lillies
    lilly of valley
    flowering almonds
    rose of sharon
    grape hyacinth
    wood hyacinths

    And here is my daily limitations:
    sitting 3 hours
    standing 2 hours
    walking 2 hours
    no squatting, reaching, pushing, pulling
    no repitious movements
    lifting under 5# frequently
    lifting under 10# occasionally
    lifting above 10# NEVER

    Health conditions include:
    spinal growths on inside
    plantar fasciitis
    cracked knee cap / tendon damage
    urinary stress incontinence (suspended once already)
    irritable bowel / diverticulitis
    heart murmer (functional at this point)
    chronic fatigue
    restless leg syndrome (strikes most at night)
    acid reflux
    chronic muscle spasms/weakness
    joint pains

    But shoot I just can't stop gardening. Even being in the middle of divorce (due to abuse) and being the one out of the house I still have to find a place to pull a few weeds. Either at my friends or visiting my sister. On my worst days I still stick the pruner in my pocket and go on thier deck and snip at the burning bush overgrowth!

    There has to be SOMETHING in life to take the mind off aches and pains. I hear so much of people who are able that complain....they just need to do what we do and listen to their body...stop and do something else and then go back. Rome wasn't built in a day and who cares if it takes all week to weed one bed...there are lots of jobs to do standing, sitting, crawling, belly scooting (if you really enjoy getting soiled like me) and then simply laying back flat to watch the birds trying to sneak in and grab an exposed insect. And at days end a soak in the tub and a frozen bottle of water rolled back and forth under the foot arches and heating pad on the back! (Well sometimes all but the tub soak gets in more than once a day between jobs)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    composthuggernancy, whew! your list of ailments is almost a duplicate of mine. Don't have asthma, but am diabetic, which stinks, believe me! Congratulations on the garden bounty. You must be proud...I certainly would be. My neighbors are learning to keep their opinions to themselves if I get behind in the yard work, because I'll suggest that they start weeding and I'll catch up with them in a while. hehehe. Like others posted here, I've found also that kneeling on only 1 knee helps & use a knee pad & thick cushion to kneel on. Home improvement stores sell really great kneepads designed for carpet layers & you can add more padding inside the knee pad. Happy gardening to all.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some of the things are improving a little now that I have been away from the home for a while. It is amazing how much "family stress" can aggrivate conditions. They are still there but some of the stress factors are gone.

    Arbitration (binding) was yest morning. Now I just have to wait to see what division decisions he makes. Hate knowing I will leave behind the plants that gave me all that harvest since they haven't been cared for and I have been told some were mowed over so they probably won't survive.

    Ah but I shall do as I did for it....plant what people give me and manage it organically. It will take a long time before the clay soil provides as did the sandy loam I fortified with the compost down here. Putting down new beds in clay soil or for that fact even trying to break clay soil to drop in a seed will be so different from before. But for bird feeding I can plant sunflowers and that will save on bird seed money. Then just rotate what I plant each year until I can no longer get outside.

    I still will utilize body saving practices as:
    pipe for planting
    sticks (pruned or windfall limbs) as walking sticks
    buckets to sit on
    crawling (dragging along the walking stick for getting up)
    making sure plants are zone hardy
    make sure plants are soil & companion amlicable
    rely on birds for bug patrol

    I will (hopefully) have more space in which to garden now but recognize the percentage of land available & garden size I make it has to conform to my ability to handle the clay. Much more back breaking than what I started with before.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I too have a lot of the problems included on your list (including the restless leg syndrome, which is the one that drives me the craziest ... strange to find somebody else who has it). Had both knee joints replaced due to rheumatoid arthritis, and while they work pretty well still for walking, kneeling is not an option for me at all.
    Nor is sitting on the ground, cause then I can't get back up.

    However, all my gardening is done on a patio (apartment dweller here), so I don't really need to scooch around on the ground :-) But it really isn't possible to have all the containers at waist height, so I bend over a lot and get a lot of back pain. I'm sure my neighbors think I am a wuss, cause I work on one plant, then go sit down for 10 minutes. I would like to get some of my containers up higher, and was wondering if anyone knows a website for plant stands that are 30" high. The only ones I have found are about $30 each, and I have a lot of containers :(

    I just found some of the ground-height container holders on wheels for $3.95, and I'm thinking surely somebody makes some tall ones in an equivalent price range?

    I too do the hot soaks, heating pads, Ben-Gue, etc., and I use ice-cold soda bottles under my knees when nothing else works for the RLS. What does putting them under your arches do for you?

    The pain gets a bit much sometimes, but boy, there is nothing like sitting with your morning cup of coffee and gawking at the beautiful blossoms :)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi there. It's baybrat, I started this thread. Just peeking in to make sure I was caught up on the posts, they are all so good, except for those of you who have posted blanket plugs by name for companies, regardless of whether you are saying you are not connected with them or not, okay? My rule is always to yadayadayada anyone who tells me a line like that, so none of us here have fallen for it anyway. Just so all sellers past, present and future know....

    Onto better matters: got a weird brain fart (excuse my french) for a new way to recycle something into a good knee cushion for ground work: a bean bag! DD was going to put one in the garage sale pile and I tried it out yesterday. It worked great. I know they are sold on the side of the road in my area of the country. Also garage sales.

    Just wanted to pass that along, and thanks for letting me vent about the selling, which if you haven't guessed, I cannot stand! :(


  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, Ya'all; I get so much encouragement from reading the posts here, that I must contribute. I have severe arthritis in my knees-cannot kneel or squat at all, but I do have a strong back, so I do a lot of bending! I, too, alternate tasks when working in the gardens. Actually, I alternate about fifteen minutes of working with about ten minutes of sitting to rest my knees. Sometimes I use the plastic 'milk crates' for stands; they put the pots and tubs up where it is easy to work in them. I also have an old walker that I keep outside, to help me get in and out of the raised beds. Whatever works! Jenny

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    just responding to the request for tall plant stands. How about turning a tall pot or bucket upside down. Frequent thrift stores, salvage shops, garage sales, flea markets etc. for anything that might work. Stools are great, I found a metal one with a swivel seat that looks like it was intended for a shop or lab because of the way it's made and it's condition. Think yard furniture or small tables either of metal or can be painted. Old chairs were quite the rage recently. Pottery and statuary places have metal stands, some like towers, that can hold more than one pot. When thinking of cost multiply capasity with inividual ones. Think benches or shelves-pvc shelving comes in dark gray that won't show grime and mold, and can be put in different arraingements than just one straight atop another. Can make a 'bench' with decorative concrete blocks and presure treated lumber like the old college book shelves. Lowes and HD will cut lengths for you in the store. Can also make water resistant shelves or bench with pluming pipe for legs using the flanges at the bottom end and one to attach to a top.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    REading Compost huggernancy's routine is a real inspiration. While I do not have these problems-now at 78,I can begin to feel arthritis coming on. BTW you mentioned Diverticulitus. I had that once upon a time and found that Slipper Elm worked like a charm for relief. I don't have a problem with it and haven't for several years now. My love of gardening is like what I am hearing from you. I think I would crawl if necessary to do my daily gardening. I remember my great grandmother up at dawn and always worked in her garden just after her breakfast at daybreak. She always put up a lot of produce. Thanks for sharing with us - To learn of other's ailments give us the courage to not give up.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    So excited to 'find' this encouraging group! I also have osteoartritis and fibromyalgia along with some of the other nuisances. Instructing a class for Arthritis Relief in the warm water pool at a hospital keeps me stronger and in touch with others in this boat. Can highly recommend you to join any kind of exercise group and all kinds of activities in the warm water. It truly is 'use it or loose it'. And like all of you Gardening is my favorite hobby. It is like painting with flowers and vegetables, for me! The color therapy (chromatherapy) does wonders for my spirits. Even as much as really good music or a great piece of dark chocolate! I still do not take prescription meds for the ailments but do use many herbs, vitamins and minerals. Read that the Earl Gray Tea with oil of bergamont was helpful for arthritis, I do drink it and it is comforting. We are doing a huge remodel and must be moved into this new/old house in just about a month! So, if I do not post regularly right now, just know I'm thinking about all of you and ask for your prayers to get thru this very stressful time. Don't you agree that pain is very universal and I believe in the power of prayer, friends, compassion and Miracles, have seen some, myself! So for now, as I always tell my friends in the class, 'Keep smiling and sharing your hugs with others'! Thanks for being a light in the night, rose

    Here is a link that might be useful: Arthritis Foundation

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi to all my arthritic friends:
    I have read all your posts and I am amazed at how some of you still garden. I, like you, have knees that don't want to work anymore and I was worried about how I was going to work on my flowers. I have used thick pieces of foam in the past for kneeling on, but it's getting up again that is so hard now. I saw a gardening kneeler at Home Hardware with sides on it that reverses into a bench which I thought was a great idea. I will check that out and also it wasn't expensive. I love my geraniums and sweet williams. Just like to say may God Bless you all and Happy Gardening. Maureen

  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    No more kneeling for me!

    After having a severe adverse reaction to an antibiotic, I was left with weakened muscles. Added to that, the doctors now think I have polymyalgia rheumatica (a lot of joint pain when not on meds). Thus, I cannot kneel simply because I cannot get up off the ground without something to hold onto!

    Garden I must, so I bought a cheap fiberglass lawn chair with arms. It is lightweight and easy to move. I just keep slowly moving it from plant to plant along the row of daylilies while weeding and grooming them. I use a pair of scissors, clippers and a long-handled hand narrow rake that enables me to drag the debris up close to me so I can dispose of it. (A child's rake would work, too.) I just toss the tools over to the next plant before I move the chair. This is so much better than prolonged bending over to weed. Where there's a will, there's a way!