Tools to Spare Your Wrists--Garden Ergonomics

Two Tools to Spare Your Wrists


            The neutral, natural position for your wrist is unbent, as it is when your hands are hanging at your sides. When you bend your hand forward, you are “flexing” your wrist. Hand bent backward, your wrist is “extended.” Holding your wrists in one of these not-neutral positions for extended periods can cause repetitive strain injuries. People vary in how much bent-wrist work they can tolerate. Gardening is one activity that can be stressful for your wrists.

            Here are two hand tools that let you keep your wrist in a neutral position while you garden. They’re a good idea whether you are trying to prevent damage or cope with an existing problem. And they are very comfortable to use.

The first is the cobrahead weeder and cultivator. This “made in U.S.A.” tool consists of a single curved prong with a flattened, pointed end that you use to reach behind a weed and extract it, or to cultivate small areas of soil. The designer calls it a “steel fingernail.” The steel of the blade is forged and tempered, then coated with an organic polymer to prevent rust. The handle is made of reprocessed polypropylene and flax. 

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This is the mini-cobrahead, showing its use in removing a weed in tight quarters.

The cobrahead is 13 inches from handle tip to top of curve. I’ve owned one for some years, and find it very useful. The company’s newest product, the mini-cobrahead, which is 8.75 inches long, is lighter, has a nice feel in the hand, and provides more control. It is also easier to use if you are working in a tight space. You can purchase cobrahead tools at, or by calling 866-962-6272. Locally, cobrahead hand tools are carried in San Francisco and Oakland by most Cole Hardware stores.

The second wrist-saving tool is the Radius Ergonomic Trowel. It has a deeply curved handle that, to one familiar with other trowels, looks quite extreme. But when you pick it up, and hold it as if to dig, you see that your wrist is neutral, and feel the comfort this offers when using the tool. The handle, which is polypropylene, a soft nonlatex rubber substitute, is comfortable to hold, and the trowel is easy to control. This tool is made of strong, lightweight, nonrusting aluminum.

Radius makes several other hand digging tools with the same curved handle, including a narrower trowel with inches marked off to show you how deep you are digging—handy should you be, for example, planting bulbs at certain depths. Radius tools can be purchased at, or by calling 734-222-8044.


Note that when you hold the Radius Trowel you have a straight wrist.

Tools that prevent any part of your body from being in stressful positions that can cause injury, or which are more comfortable for someone who is already injured, or who has arthritis, are called “ergonomic.” Both of these featured tools are also easier on arthritic hands by having wide, easy-to-grasp handles. There are also hand pruning tools that have ergonomic designs. They have features such as easy-grip handles or ones that rotate as you close the blades to make a cut.

In addition to selecting ergonomic garden tools, look at how you use your hands all day and night. Try to choose ergonomic tools in general, or position the tools you use—keyboards, kitchen tools, sports tools, bicycle handlebars—so that your wrists stay neutral. If you must do tasks with bent wrists, take frequent breaks. Even the position of your wrists at night, bent or straight, can make a difference.