It’s Fall again! time for hot chocolate, bonfires and to watch the leaves turn. Our homes are cozier this time of year as we prepare for holidays and the arrival of loved ones. However, autumn does come with some challenges. I know you might be making a list and checking it twice but holiday shopping is not the only challenge to be found this season. One of the biggest challenges is yard work because when those leaves fall its time to rake them. On the plus side yard work such as raking leaves count as moderate exercise! Now some not so good news: it is actually very easy to injure yourself if you are using improper techniques. The colder weather already puts you at risk for muscle pain- muscles constrict in cold weather and are more prone to cramps and strain. Add to that all of the twisting, turning, bending, pulling, pushing, and reaching of raking. And since these are seasonal activities, you are probably using muscles that may not be a limber as expected. All of these factors can contribute to injury. Common injuries include upper and/or lower back strain, neck pain, and shoulder pain.
Here are some tips to prevent injury when raking leaves and other yard work:
- Do stretching exercises before and throughout the course of your yard work
- Stand as straight as possible
- Bend at the knees, not the waist, when you pick up things
- Look into purchasing ergonomic tools. An ergonomic tool is one that has been engineered in such a way that it helps protect you from injury
- Avoid repetitive twisting and turning
- Take breaks. This will allow your muscles rest and will minimize strain.
- When raking leaves, use a “scissors stance.” Right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes, then switch
- Hold rake handle close to your body and stand up straight
- Change sides frequently to avoiding overusing one side of your body, but avoid twisting when you pass the rake from one side to the other
- When leaves are under the rake, pull them straight back towards your body
If you experience a winter injury from raking, fall sports, doing day-to-day activities, etc. please don’t hesitate to find a physical therapist. They will be able to take a look at the injury and determine whether or not physical therapy may be the best choice moving forward. With direct access to physical therapy, you have more control than ever before when it comes to your care.