Gardening is a wonderful hobby – a great sense of satisfaction can be derived from watching the fruits of your labour grow and mature. It can also – with the proper planning and tools – be a pain-free hobby for people living with arthritis. The purpose of this article is to find the best secateurs for arthritis.
Not only seniors, but also those afflicted by early onset diseases such as juvenile arthritis, can become proficient gardeners with a few adaptations. There are several creative solutions for arthritic gardeners.
Gardening with arthritis
It is important to rest your joints as needed by taking frequent breaks, which also allow you to enjoy the work you’ve completed so far and to plan your next tasks. Be aware of your posture, using larger muscles to lift and carrying items as close to your body as possible. Sit or stand as straight as possible while working, and change positions often.
If you must kneel, use a kneeling pad or low seat that you can rest on while weeding or tending the garden. Be sure to stand and stretch occasionally to prevent your joints from stiffening up.
If the option is available to you, work in a raised planting bed or flower box to reduce the need to stoop or kneel. You can also use plant pots or other small containers on a tabletop; and any plants that you’ll need to move frequently can be placed in lightweight plastic or foam pots. A large pot can also be filled partway with a filler such as packing peanuts to help with drainage and reduce the weight.
Consider hiring out or getting help for heavy lifting or for jobs such as planting trees or clearing debris. Listen to your body and respect its limitations – if you’re feeling pain, change tasks or take a break.
Finally, you should use tools that are easier on your joints – ergonomically-designed and long-handled tools allow the user to stand rather than stooping, and some attachments can lengthen tool handles for added leverage. Use electric tools when possible, though using a vibrating tool for long periods of time could aggravated arthritis symptoms.
Pruning with arthritis
One of the more difficult tasks for arthritis sufferers can be pruning. It’s hard for stiff, swollen or cramped fingers to squeeze most secateurs. Reaching overhead to trim or prune branches can exacerbate arthritis symptoms and cause aches in the shoulders, arms and hands. Using long-handled tools or a small outdoor ladder can make overhead pruning much easier.
Several other ergonomically-designed tools can make it easier to prune with arthritis: ratcheting secateurs, bypass pruners or electric pruners. Search for a secateurs that gives the maximum output for the minimum exertion of the hands and joints – though they will be more expensive, if properly tended, these high-quality tools will last a lifetime.
Types of secateurs
These specialized gardening scissors were first invented in 1819 by Antoine François Bertrand de Molleville; the first anvil pruners were developed by Walther Schröder in 1923. Though they were widely sold throughout Europe and North America in the late 19th century, today secateurs are typically used by vintners, fruit farmers, and gardeners – both professionals and hobbyists.
Secateurs, also called hand pruners or pruning shears, are a type of heavy scissors for use on plants. They are operated with one hand, and a spring between the handles causes the jaws to open after closing; some are designed for right-handed or left-handed use only while some have a rotating handle to minimize stress on the hands.
Secateurs are strong enough to cut hard branches up to 2cm thick. They would be considered one of the basic tools a gardener would use frequently.
Ratcheting pruners are a type of secateurs that can handle thicker stems. Loppers are a larger, two-handed version of pruning shears that have long handles and are used for larger branches; these are still a good choice for those with arthritis who are find traditional secateurs too difficult to use.
Secateur blade designs
There are three different blade designs for pruning shears.
The anvil pruner has only one blade, which closes onto a flat surface. It can be sharpened from both sides and will still cut even when slightly blunt. Theses pruners are useful for cutting thick branches as they can bite into the stem from one direction, then be swung around to bite further into the weakened wood from another direction.
Bypass pruners work like scissors; they have two blades which pass by one another to make the cut. There is a convex upper blade and either a concave or a straight lower blade.
The parrot-beak secateurs have two concave passing blades which trap the stem between them to make the cut; these are only suitable for narrow stems.
Secateur blade materials
Stainless steel blades are highly resistant to rust, as they have a protective chromium oxide layer; they are not, however, highly durable for long.
Carbon steel provides more malleability and durability; however, they are prone to staining and corrosion.
Titanium coated blades provide a good balance between durability, sharpness and resistance to corrosion. Titanium is stronger yet lighter than steel, and its coating helps to strengthen the blade and prevent rusting. After several sharpenings, the underlying steel edge can be exposed.
Secateurs for arthritic hands
A battery-operated pruner is convenient as it doesn’t require squeezing to operate; it is however, bulkier than the traditional secateurs, so may not fit into tight spaces between stems. They can also be heavier than pruning shears and may require two hands to hold and operate.
Ratcheting secateurs have a mechanism that re-sets itself after each squeeze of the handles, clicking into place and allowing the user to pump the handles to work slowly and steadily through thicker branches. Ratcheting secateurs have either an anvil or a bypass blade design.
Ergonomic secateurs, such as those made by the Swiss company Felco, are designed for comfort and to reduce stress on the hand while optimizing the force output by every squeeze. They can sometimes have rotating handles or angled heads to help those with stiff and painful joints in their hands.
Best secateurs for arthritis:
These Fiskars pruners are specifically designed for people with arthritis – they are a must buy if you are experiencing difficulty using your existing pair of secateurs