Winter is behind us and spring is in full bloom. With that comes the chance to get outside, enjoy the weather, and get active. Transitioning from the lazy days of winter, into the bustle of the spring season, can take its toll on your body. Here are six back-saving tips to ease you outdoors:

  1. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is especially important in the springtime, when your body is adjusting to warmer weather and more rigorous activity. Staying hydrated can help keep muscles from getting stiff and sore, which can go a long way in preventing back pain.
  2. Use the right tools for the job. Quality gardening tools are worth the investment. Paying a little extra for ergonomic tools with cushioned grips that are made with lighter, stronger materials helps reduce muscle fatigue. Be kind to your back; rent power tools or machinery for the big jobs, like tilling, edging, or big digging projects.
  3. Pad your knees. When you’re working in a garden, you should kneel on the ground. It allows you to lean forward and maintain your posture without putting excessive strain on your back. Invest in a pad to protect your knees while you kneel.
  4. Rotate your activities. Repetitive movements cause muscle fatigue and can strain your joints. Rotate through your outdoor tasks. Spend 15 minutes kneeling in the garden, then stand up to rake or mow for half an hour. Vary the motions you do and how long you do them. Not only will it prevent back pain, you might surprise yourself with how long you can spend outside when you don’t get fatigued as fast.
  5. Lift smarter. You already know to lift with your knees and not your back. Take that one step further and get help. Ask a friend or family member to help you move heavy bags of mulch or potting soil. Use a wheelbarrow whenever you can, even if it is something you could otherwise lift on your own. Lift smarter, not harder.
  6. Stretch and ice. Take 10-15 minutes to stretch after all of the leaning, bending, and lifting you’ve done. It will help release any tension that has built up in your muscles and prevent them from getting stiff and sore. If you have any aches, apply ice to the affected area. It will reduce inflammation and limit the extra blood flow that causes swelling.

Before heading outside to cure your spring fever, remember to talk with your doctor, physical therapist, or healthcare provider about adding physical activity to the management of your back pain or recovery from surgery.