Gardening season is here, but it doesn't have to bring a fresh crop of aches, pains and muscle strains.
"While gardening helps to relieve mental stress, many people underestimate the physical stress your body can endure during this activity," orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Raj Rao said in an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) news release.
"The constant bending, reaching and squatting involved could result in injuries to the lower back and knees, therefore it's important to be mindful of your body's position while gardening to avoid aches and strains," Rao said.
The AAOS offers a number of safety tips:
Before gardening, do some simple stretches to loosen your joints and muscles.
Take breaks while you work and avoid staying in the same position for too long.
To lift an heavy object, position yourself close to it, separate your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up. If an item is too heavy or awkwardly shaped, ask someone to help.
Use a garden stool when possible, or consider a vertical garden, wall planters or hanging plant baskets to make work easier.
Wear gloves, sturdy shoes and long pants to guard against insect bites and injuries.
Learn about the plants and trees around you. If you identify poisonous ones, keep young children away and teach them about the potential risks. If you cannot identify a plant or tree, take a sample to your local garden center for identification, medicinenet reports.
Keep gardening equipment in good working order.