“Ergonomic tools are designed around the gardener. They can significantly reduce discomfort and fatigue and reduce injuries,” said Paula Kramer, Ph.D., chair and professor of occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
In preparation for spring, Kramer shares the key ergonomic tools and tool features designed to make gardening easier:
- One-piece construction. Trowels, weeders and cultivators made from one piece of metal from the top to the bottom allow for less possibility of breakage in the tool.
- Padded handles. Hand tools with fat, padded handles and textured, non-slip grips allow for a tight grip under damp conditions. Tools with extendable handles help for reaching difficult areas and accommodate a person’s height. These long-handled tools should have some flexibility, but not too much. Telescopic and pistol-grip handles require less energy and keep the body in proper alignment.
- Spring-action. Sheers, pruners and clippers with a spring-action, self-opening feature help to prevent strain on the muscles and joints, but they should be well oiled to open and close easily.
- Modified shaft. Rakes, hoes and forks with a bend in the shaft make the upper part of the handle work in a more horizontal position than normal, enabling a person to have more upright posture and a fist grip at the end.
- Garden caddy. Functional caddies can help protect your knees and back from strain and stooping with built in kneepads, a platform for sitting and a vessel to easily transport tools, mulch and heavy items.
While ergonomic tools may look radically different than normal gardening tools, Kramer cautions that not all “ergonomic” tools are created equal.
“Just because a tool says it is ergonomic doesn’t mean it’s ergonomic for you,” she said. “Try the tool out – it must fit your needs and your body.”