Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation urges you to use proper technique when raking leaves to avoid back pain and other injuries this fall

Arrow Physical Therapy Fall Gardening Tips

Fall is now in full swing, and that means a number of major seasonal changes, one of the most enjoyable of which is the turning of the leaves to a bright array of reds, oranges and yellows. While the aesthetic value of watching these changes occur is undeniable to most, the downside is these leaves eventually fall to the ground, and that means someone has to take on the sometimes-daunting task of raking them up.

For most homeowners with a yard, raking leaves is a necessary and unavoidable part of autumn. Depending on the size of your yard, raking can be a time-consuming task, but it actually serves as a great form of cardiovascular exercise that allows you to burn off some calories. Unfortunately, due to its physical nature, raking can also lead to back pain and other injuries if proper technique is not used.

Raking involves lots of twisting, reaching, pulling, bending and lifting repeatedly and with weight. Even for those of you who are in good shape and stay active regularly, this can be a challenging pursuit that utilizes muscles in the arms, shoulders and back that may be underused and therefore more prone to injury. Without proper preparation and/or performing movements incorrectly on a repeated basis, injuries can occur. Low back pain is the most common, but other raking-induced injuries can include the shoulders, neck and arms as well.

Since it’s a form of physical activity, raking should be treated as any other form of it. Taking a few precautions and making sure you’re using the right techniques will help you avoid most raking injuries. Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation recommends these tips to keep your back and body safe while raking this fall:

  • Make sure you’re using the proper size and type of rake that you can move effectively; wear gloves and shoes with skid-resistant soles
  • Before beginning, warm up for 10 minutes with some brisk walking and stretching of the shoulders, wrist, hips, neck and back
  • Work at a comfortable pace and take breaks every 15-20 minutes or so
  • Avoid twisting your body, planting your feet or using your back; instead, use your arms and legs, stand upright and shift your weight appropriately
  • Divide the job into segments try to vary your movements and much as possible to avoid overuse of specific muscle groups
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after to prevent dehydration
  • Don’t overfill bags of leaves and when picking them up, bend at the knees, without using your back; drag bags or use a wheelbarrow if they’re too big
  • After you’re finished, cool down and stretch out again, especially your back

If you do happen to experience pain in the back or anywhere else after raking, ice the affected area for 15-20 minutes a few times a day. For pain that persists after four days or for any other advice on raking safety, visit us at Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, with four locations in Woodbridge, Union, Somerville and Edison, NJ. Call 732-494-0895 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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