WHY RAKING LEAVES CAN BE A REAL PAIN IN THE NECK AND THE BACK
Autumn is upon us and nature’s grandeur is on full display. The colors are changing and the leaves are drifting to the ground. There is nothing better than soaking in the season—until you find yourself unable to stand or walk because you injured your back while raking.
What began as a crisp, glorious fall day ends with you on the couch unable to move and in a lot of pain. If you want your yard to look good and save your back at the same time, here are some things to keep in mind before you head out to rake your lawn:
- Choose the right tools. All rakes are not created equal. Shop around until you find one that works well for someone your height. You also should keep in mind that the lighter (and cheaper) the rake, the more energy you will need to exert using it. Instead opt for one that is stronger and has a handle with gripping material. There are even ergonomic rakes available that are designed to prevent injury. A good rule of thumb with any rake is to hold one hand near the end of it and always reach with your arms.
- Warm up. It might not feel like you are exercising but raking is a real workout which involves a bending and stretching so should not be taken lightly. Before you begin, loosen up with some stretches, paying special attention to your back, neck and shoulder muscles.
- Mind your posture. Make sure that you stand tall and don’t slouch when raking. Always rake leaves to the side of your body, switching the dominant hand periodically. When picking up leaves bend at the knees to avoid twisting your body. This true when it comes to hauling bags of leaves to the curb, as well. And make sure not to overfill bags with leaves.
- Wear the proper footwear. Shoes with good traction will offer support and help prevent your back from getting overly tired. Further, quality footwear will help to prevent slips and falls that can wreak havoc on your back. It also is important to make sure that you are aware of any holes in the ground, tree roots or other hazards that may cause you to stumble or trip and wrench your back.
- Rest periodically. Take a break every 10 to 15 minutes to stretch and release tension in your muscles. Depending on the size of the job, it might be a good idea to tackle it over a few days. Pace yourself and rake your yard in manageable sections. This is especially true if you are raking wet leaves which are more difficult to rake, bag and carry to the curb. When you are finished for the day do more stretching and consider taking a warm bath.
The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 75,000 injuries occur each year from raking. One reason for this large number of injuries is the fact that many of the muscles used for raking are not normally used. The most common complaint chiropractors say they hear is that a patient was bending over to put leaves in a bag and their back went out. By following the advice listed above, you can prevent becoming such a statistic!