Memorial Day weekend in New England is traditionally referred to as the unofficial start of summer.
It's an action-packed weekend — especially for those with a green thumb.
But your body may not be ready for this sudden rush of activity, and more people acquire significant injuries from digging in the dirt than you may think.
Gardening over Memorial Day weekend is the most notorious injury-causing activity by a good measure. The repetitious nature of excavating, pulling and bending over the course of the weekend is more than many of us can handle.
It's understandable though — the growing season in the Northeast is short and this weekend is the safest time to plant, as they say — so read on to learn some of the common ways people will get hurt gardening this weekend and what strategies you can use to avoid having to call your doctor's office Tuesday morning.
From the knees to the back, it's nearly a guarantee that those who garden will be sore afterward. One of the easiest ways to prevent soreness is to stand up every five minutes and walk around for a full 60 seconds. Survey what you have left to do and admire the work you've done so far — it'll give your legs and back time to stretch out and prevent them from tightening up.
Kneel on a pad to prevent grinding your kneecap on the ground. Prolonged compression of the patella is likely to cause an inflammatory reaction and could damage sensitive cartilage. A foam pad should only cost you a few dollars, but is worth its weight in gold when it comes to injury prevention.
Take a full 10-minute sitting-break every hour. Your low back simply won't tolerate being stooped over an entire day. Sitting down for a few minutes every hour allows you the chance to re-hydrate, have a quick bite to eat and get ready for the next round of activity.
Be careful if you're transplanting plants — some of them are really "rooted in." A general rule of thumb is to never, ever pull a plant until you're positive that all the roots have been severed. Never yank or tug — if you do, there's nearly a 100 percent chance you'll injure a disc in your back.
If you're buying plants, don't crane over to lift a heavy plant in or out of the car. Slide it along the trunk gently until it's well within your reach. Any clinician will tell you, lifting heavy plants is often the source of elbow tendonitis and rotator cuff tears.
Don't fill lawn bags with dirt. Beat the root ball of the weeds (or whatever is being dug up) with your hands until you've removed as much dirt as possible. Carrying a heavy lawn bag could seriously injure you or the city collectors when it's time to get rid of them.
While these may seem like simple suggestions to follow, remember that it's easy to get caught up in a gardening moment and ignore your body.
Be careful this weekend when you're doing all the hard prep work and kick off the summer safely.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes "On the Mend" weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.