It's that time of year again. The sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, eagerly waiting to shine bright. The birds are singing (and waking me up in the morning). And the ground is thawing out and ready to be pampered and planted.

That's right: gardening season is upon us!

However, while gardening is relaxing and enjoyable, it can be hard on your body. Specifically, your hands, wrists, knees, and back.

So, to help you stay healthy and happy this Spring, we wanted to give you five smart tips to keep you safe while playing in your garden.

Tip #1: Warm Up Before Working Hard

Gardening is a full-body workout, and just like going to the gym or playing a sport, we recommend you warm up your muscles before you get your hands dirty.

Nothing fancy. A simple warm up can be walking around your yard or your neighborhood for 10 minutes. In fact, this is a great warm up because you can simultaneously begin to brainstorm ideas of how you want your garden to look.

Tip #2: Smart Work Is Often Better Than Hard Work

Gardening sometimes requires you to lift and move heavy objects (plants, dirt, wheel barrows, pots, etc.). But that doesn't mean you have to do that lifting all by your lonesome.

Getting help from your spouse, kids, friends, or neighbors is the smart thing to do when you're faced with a task that could potentially injury you (and preventing you from enjoying one of your pastimes).

Tip #3: Don't “Put Your Back Into It”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “put your back into it”? Well, we recommend that you don't take that literally.

In fact, Dr. Jeffery Baum, a UPMC-St. Margaret's Hospital Orthopaedic Doctor Specializing in Spine Care, recommends “Bend your knees instead of bending from your hips and back when lifting pots, equipment, bags of dirt, and anything that weighs more than 10 pounds.

“Improperly lifting anything over 10 pounds can put undue pressure on your spine that can lead to injury. It's also important to keep objects close to your body and avoid twisting or pivoting at all costs.”

Lifting objects isn't the only time to pay attention to your back, though. You can also compromise your back when you bend over to pick weeds or plant flowers. So, consider sitting on the ground or on a bucket during these activities to keep your back safe.

Tip #4: Use Good Form and Good Tools

According to Dr. Franklin Chou, a UPMC-St. Margaret's Hospital Orthopaedic Doctor Specializing in Hand and Wrist Care, “Using good form while gardening doesn't just apply to keeping your back safe. Your hands and your wrists may also be at risk if you're not careful.

“For example, if you're moving a heavy plant into place, it's important to keep your wrists straight and strong. Injury typically occurs when your wrists are bent or in an awkward position.

“Also, if you plan on being in the garden a lot this year, I'd consider using ergonomically sound tools to help keep your wrists safe and avoid unwanted injury.”

Tip #5: Pace Yourself and Enjoy the Journey

The gardening season isn't just today or this week. It's all season long! That why we recommend that you pace yourself and spread your work out.

Yes, it can be mentally and emotionally satisfying to complete a big project fast. But learning to enjoy the journey is just as important – and a lot safer.

Ok, get out there and have some fun! Just be sure to keep these five smart tips on the forefront of your mind to stay safe.

And, of course, if you do happen to experience any pain or discomfort while gardening this season, we highly recommend you to seek medical attention. Your safety is our concern.

Enjoy your time in the dirt!