As the weather warms up and we begin to look for some outdoor projects to keep our bodies and minds busy, many of us may focus on our gardens and yards. Keeping in mind that our bodies will be doing many movements we haven't done since last summer, we need to think about warming up and stretching our muscles!

Activities such as digging, bending, raking, planting, pruning, lifting, hoeing, twisting and carrying debris are examples. If done improperly, they can lead to muscle & joint pain, repetitive strain injuries, tendinitis & carpal tunnel. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

WARM UP/ STRETCH your muscles, as you would before any physical activity.

CORRECT POSTURE when raking, shoveling, hoeing, etc. Keeping your spine in alignment and using your hip & leg muscles, will help prevent back strain.

PROPER LIFTING plants & bags of soil: bend from hips & knees (not from the waist), keeping your abdominal muscles tightened, feet shoulder-width apart. Carry lighter, more frequent loads, close to your body.

PROPER TOOLS can avoid wear & tear on weight-bearing joints. Lightweight gardening tools appropriate for your height helps avoid working in a bent-over position. Stand as close to the work area as possible; using arms & legs to do the work instead of your back.

CHANGE POSITIONS every 20 minutes to prevent joints from tightening. Stretch out arms, shoulders, legs & torso while taking breaks.

HYDRATE. Dehydration can affect how muscle tissues heal. Be sure to drink plenty of water during activity.

Like any other activity that requires bending, lifting & twisting, good common sense, pacing yourself, & practicing good body mechanics is important.A physical therapist can evaluate you & devise a good stretching & strengthening exercise program appropriate for your needs. So, whether you’re doing yard work or nurturing your garden, we hope these tips keep you injury free!

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