After a long, physically distanced winter inside, Spring is beckoning us like never before. But spring into action too quickly, and you may be heading for painful injuries.

Indeed, the 24 vertebrae and 120 joints in your spine may already be feeling some strain from weight gain and hours on Zoom. A sudden sprint or extended time weeding can send pain blooming through your body. Here are some tips to keep you looking forward to the pleasures of the outdoors in the months ahead, without any lingering aches.

Reduce Vulnerability to Rips and Tears

Stretch for at least five minutes, and ideally 10 before exercise or physical work. Think “long and strong.” Long muscles are strong muscles. Short/tight muscles tend to be weaker, and more vulnerable to rips and tears.

Please be Seated

For ground-level activities like gardening, sit on a low stool. This is safer than bending over, which puts half your body weight on your low back. Open your hips, turn out your knees and feet, and lean forward. It may seem unnatural at first, but you’ll appreciate the protective effects.

Knee Pads are for More than Hockey

If planting seeds has you on your knees for long periods, protect them—and your posture—with pads, a pillow, or other thick, foam-like material.

Switch Sides

Don’t rake your entire lawn on your dominant side. If you start on your right side, switch to the left after five minutes, and then switch back. This will balance out the physical demand you are putting on your body.

Take Periodic Breaks

Hydrate, stand up straight, walk and stretch at least once every 20-30 minutes

Ice Up

If you do get injured, the pain you feel will be from inflammation, and ice is a natural anti-inflammatory. If the pain is acute (new), for the first 24 hours, ice as often as you can—15 minutes on, 15 off, and then repeat. Always put a damp cloth between the ice pack and your skin.

This advice does not replace proper medical attention, and if in doubt, always call a trusted medical professional to seed a safe return to warmer weather.

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