For many people, gardening is one of life's greatest joys. But exercising your green thumb carries some risk.
In 2012, more than 41,200 people nationwide were injured while gardening, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Don't let a day of digging, weeding and watering get the best of you. Take steps to prevent common gardening injuries.
• Safety goggles and gloves shield your eyes and skin from chemicals and pesticides and protect you from sharp or motorized equipment.
• Spending hours in the sun each day can lead to sunburn and can increase your chance of skin cancer. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Take frequent shady breaks, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its highest.
• While watering your plants, don't forget to water yourself. Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid alcohol or sugary beverages that will dehydrate you.
• Use lightweight hand tools with rubber handles and ergonomic designs. Tools with offset handles make digging and weeding easier. Or cover your current handles in foam tubing. Sharp, clean tools work better and require less effort, so maintain or replace your equipment often. Handle extenders and reachers can help you reduce the need for bending, reaching and stretching.
• Stretch and get ready. "Prepare your knees and low back for all that bending and lifting," says Dr. Lauri Grossman, a New York chiropractor who has been practicing homeopathy for more than 25 years. "Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie on your back and pull your knees to your chest. Then drop your legs from side to side five to 10 times. If you begin this now, you'll be rewarded with greater flexibility and a reduced chance of sprains and strains later in the season."