Raking LeavesNow that we are well into the fall, we can look forward to the spectacular show of colours.  However, not many of us look forward to raking those leaves. Especially not if we injure ourselves in the process.

With these simple steps, you can take the ‘ache’ out of ‘rake’ and have fun on those last few sunny, warm afternoons.

Proper equipment

Plan ahead! Pick a rake that is a good height and weight for you. The extra large ones may look like they’ll cut the time in half, but the added weight that comes with it may strain your muscles and cause injury. Ergonomic shapes are also available, so try a few at the store before you make a choice.

Wear comfortable, warm clothing that allows your body to breathe. If the weather is a bit cool, be sure to layer-up to keep your muscles warm and loose. Gloves and sturdy shoes with non-slip soles will help to limit the chance you may take a spill. If you are using a hand blower, remember to stay upright and avoid the tendency to bend at the waist. Keep your nose in the direction of your toes and this will limit the rotation through your low back.

Warm up and Stretch before AND after your chores!

The key to keeping your body moving the way you want it to is to treat it well along the way! A quick muscle warm-up by walking around the yard and a few stretches to loosen things up will help. Reach up with each hand several times, as if climbing a ladder, then do some gentle side bends. Gently lift the knee to chest to open up the low back and do a few squats to get your knees ready to bend. Hold each position for 10-15 seconds and repeat a few times on each side. Remember to breathe!

Switch hands to avoid repetition

Many people are most comfortable with one hand position; however it is a good idea to switch sides on a regular basis to avoid repetitive stress on the same side of the neck, shoulders and back. Take frequent breaks while you rake to drink some water and do a few stretches – the leaves aren’t going anywhere! This will help your recovery process after the job is done.

Use your legs – not your back!

This is a well-known slogan, but we need to follow it! The knees are meant to withstand bending while the lower back does not like to do this over and over. Your leg muscles are much stronger than your lower back muscles, so use them! Remember to step in the direction you are raking, rather than twisting through your waist. This will keep low back strain at a minimum.

Once the job is done and you can sit back to enjoy the view, please remember to be kind to your body. It is normal to feel some muscle irritation after a good workout, but only for a few days. If it continues for more than 3-4 days, please consult your manual therapist – Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Massage therapist, etc.