Knees are pretty susceptible to injury, and one potential cause of pain in this area is from a seemingly harmless source: gardening. It can be rough on the knees, especially if you’re out there for long stretches, but there are some steps you can take to help reduce your knee pain.
One of the reasons knees are prone to pain and injury is because they take a lot of wear and tear, even when standing or sitting. Because working in the garden requires so much squatting, kneeling, and bending, among other things, it can strain the knee more than you realize. Conditioning the muscles that support the knee is important: do some strengthening exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings (the muscles on the front and back of the thigh, respectively) and stretch them before you begin. These muscles protect and support the knee, so keeping them in good shape has a wider effect.
You probably don’t give a lot of thought to the way you squat, but you should. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed, with your feet planted firmly in a fairly wide, but not over-reaching, stance. Keep your feet flat on the ground: raised heels can be harmful to the ligaments of the knee. Don’t squat for too long, either!
Kneeling is the most obvious of the pain triggers for the knee and can cause issues like patellar bursitis, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. One way to make it easier on yourself is to get a foam kneeling pad to use for your work on the ground. If moving it around with you seems inconvenient, you can also strap on some kneepads; many come in foam or gel form. Either way, investing in some cushioning can prevent a lot of knee pain.
When you are kneeling, be mindful of your position. Kneeling with one knee on the ground and the other up can help; just remember to switch knees every so often. That goes for other positions too – move around every 20 minutes or so, alternating between standing, kneeling, squatting, and sitting, to reduce the risk of pain in all areas. Installing raised planters and getting a small chair or overturned bucket will allow you to sit as you work, which may reduce knee pain and even back pain significantly.
As always, remember to stretch after your work, as it can reduce swelling and ward off stiffness and soreness later.