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Gardening with a stoma

10th April 2019

At last, the cold winter months are on the wain and we can look ahead to better weather, longer days and of course, the blossoming of nature. If you’ve been counting down the days to better weather, then the chances are that you’re itching to get out into the garden.

Whilst it’s tempting to throw on a pair of gardening gloves and head out, it’s important that as an ostomate, you need to take some extra precautions to look after yourself. Whilst it may not be the most strenuous activity there is, you should still take care to make sure that you don’t put any strain on your back or around your stoma. To begin with, it might be a good idea to aim for one hour or so of easy gardening – weeding out or clearing leaves from the beds and build up your activity from there. Do take a break, whether that’s having a nice cup of tea, admiring your handiwork, or popping indoors to watch a spot of tv.

How can I protect myself from injury?

When you have a stoma, the most important thing is to protect is the area around it, closely followed by preventing yourself from ‘pulling’ a muscle in the area around your stoma. Thankfully, it’s easier than you might think to get prepared.

As with any physical activity, the best way to avoid straining yourself is to do a gentle warm-up exercise before getting started. This will increase the blood flow to your muscles, consequently reducing the risk of injuries. Everybody is different and to find out which warm up will be the most effective for you, feel free to get in touch with one of our GoldCare Nurses who will be able to offer professional advice.

We would also recommend that you speak to your Healthcare Practitioner about support garments. Whilst some ostomates prefer to use them, it depends on your own needs. Some people find that a good support belt provides their muscles with extra protection when taking part in physical activities, while others don’t feel the need to use one.

Best practice: Things to consider when out in the garden

Okay, so you’ve got yourself a support garment and you’re nicely warmed up! Now that you’re ready to enjoy the spring weather, here are a few tips to help take care of yourself while working on your garden.

Lifting

Whilst we lift things most days, some items in the garden can be heavier than you think! If you need to pick up a pot or a watering can for example, just remember that you want to avoid straining yourself. If you have any doubt, we’d recommend that you get someone to help you with lifting. A lightweight alternative to carrying a watering can is to use a hosepipe to water plants instead.

Pushing

It’s important to take extra care when you’re pushing anything in the garden, such as a lawnmower or wheelbarrow. Pushing something adds more pressure to your stomach muscles than you think, so if possible, use a rotary mower and don’t fill up your wheelbarrow too heavily. Remember, if it’s hard to lift, it’s too heavy at the moment and you should ask for help. 

Stretching

Where possible, try to avoid stretching as it can put unnecessary pressure on the area around your stoma. Consider making some changes to your garden so there is less leaning and stretching for you to do. For example, you could use shingle or bark in borders so that less weeding is required. More space between plants will give you better access, without stretching.

Bending

When you’re out and about in the garden, you’ll be spending more time bending than you think. If possible, always try to bend at your knees and not at your waist. This will reduce the pressure that gets put on your stomach muscles and your stoma. You could think about introducing raised flowerbeds to reduce the amount of bending that you need to do in future. Please don’t try to create these by yourself!

Join a local gardening group

Get the most out of your garden by joining a local group? There are many gardening clubs all over the UK where members offer each other help and advice. It’s also a great way of meeting new people who are as passionate about gardening as you are. You can find a list of local clubs on the Royal Horticultural Society website, visit https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/find-a-group

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There’s no doubt about it, a garden can be hard work, but it is also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. As long as you look after yourself and your stoma then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to enjoy yours.

If you have got any questions regarding carrying out physical activities as an ostomate, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team or speak to one of our GoldCare Nurses.

We are always happy to help and offer professional advice.

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