Fall is a favourite season for many Canadians. Cooler temperatures, cozy sweaters, beautiful colours and time with family during Thanksgiving. The trees are beautiful but when that peak colour passes and the leaves fall, we have some cleaning up to do! Raking leaves can cause mid and low back pain, as well as strains and pains that we see as chiropractors and massage therapists. Most injuries happen because raking is a repetitive activity and forces us to use some muscles we don’t commonly use. So before you grab your rake and head outside, here are a few tips to help remain injury free this raking season.
Tips for Pain Free Raking
1. Warm Up – Make sure you warm up your muscles before you start raking. Doing some trunk rotation and shoulder and wrist rotations should help. If you are prone to mid and low back injury, take some extra time on this step!
2. Clear Debris – Take some time pre-raking to check for larger obstacles like rocks, sticks, dog or child toys hidden amongst the leaves. This will help you avoid sudden jarring injuries, trip and fall injuries and slipping.
3. Use Proper Equipment – Use a rake that is the proper height and weight for you. Home improvement stores carry a wide variety of ergonomically correct rakes. Take some time to find the right one.
4. Wear Proper Shoes – We may want to hold on to those last warm days by wearing summer shoes, but when you are raking wear proper footwear to avoid slip and fall accidents.
5. Avoid Twisting Motions – Think about the way you are moving. Avoid twisting motions. Shift your weight with your legs. Change your hand position occasionally and change your which foot you have in front to avoid strain. Always rake towards your body, not away from it.
6. Protect Your Back – Let your legs do the work. Bend at the knees with your back straight to pick up leaves or bags and avoid bending at the waist. This will ease pressure on your back.
7. Be Smart – Be careful not to overfill leaf bags. They can be deceptively heavy, especially of the leaves are wet. Again, remember to lift with your legs when moving them to the garage or curbside for pick up.
8. Take Breaks – Remember that raking is considered an aerobic activity. Take breaks when needed and drink water while you work.
9. Cool Down – Cooling down is just as important as the warm up. Take a few minutes to do so stretches for the back, shoulders, neck and wrists. You will feel better for doing it.
Finally – Do not be embarrassed to call the office for an appointment after raking. Too many people think a raking injury is silly and then avoid coming into the office for treatment. If you feel you have injured yourself get in for an adjustment. Leaving it will only make it worse!