Gardening--it's great way to stay active through the hot summer months, and there are some important things to keep in mind as you dig in the dirt. Paying attention to how you use your body will help you prevent injury and enjoy the bounty of a Portland summer.

 Here’s a list of tips for the most common gardening moves—and causes of injury.

 1) Lifting heavy materials—namely bags of dirt, fertilizer, heavy rocks and stones:

  • Avoid bending forward and lifting with your back.
  • Bend the knees and lower into a squat position.
  • Hold the object close to your body and lift up through your legs.
  • Never carry heavy objects far out in front of you or overhead.
  • Use a wheelbarrow (there’s no shame in that)! Similar mechanics should be used when pushing the wheelbarrow. Avoid lifting with your back and instead use your legs to lift up from a slight squat position.
  • Take smaller loads.

 2) Planting and weeding:

  • Avoid staying bent forward for long periods of time, which could cause your muscles to spasm.
  • Change position often—utilize squat, half kneeling, and sitting positions.
  • Vary which leg is forward and which arm you use.
  • Focus instead on bending through the hips while keeping your back straight.
  • Take frequent breaks for stretching and water.

 3) Garden tools are your friends:

  • Use tools with long handles which help you avoid forward bending.
  • Use newer clippers which take less pressure to use.
  • Use hoses on reels to avoid having to pull the hose all over the yard.
  • Avoid carrying heavy watering cans.
  • When shoveling or raking, use your legs to do the work, not your back!

 --Contributed by Erin Courtney, DPT, BS, Life's Work Physical Therapy. Erin sees patients at GreenField Health Westside office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Call 503-292-9560 for more information.