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leaf raking injury prevention tips

Leaf Raking Injury Prevention Tips

by Shelia M. Tenny, OTR/L, CHTLeave a Comment

As we tire of the hot and humid, days of summer, many of us look forward to the cool, crisp fall air. This time of year is beloved by many for so many reasons. Football, apple picking and going to the pumpkin patch are just a few! Even though most of us love to admire the scenery as the leaves change from green to various shades of yellow, red and orange, most would agree that raking them is one of the dreaded jobs of autumn. While raking leaves seems easy, the sheer volume of leaves can turn what seems to be a simple tasks into several weekends of work.

To help you combat some of the aches and pains that are often associated with fall yard work, here are a few tips to help you get those leaves out of your yard and if you still have any energy – maybe give you something to look forward to in the spring!

Start with a Warm-Up

Prior to any yard work, perform a quick warm-up to loosen your muscles and get a little blood pumping, since raking can be strenuous. Take a short walk, perform some arm circles, standing forward bends, side bends and trunk rotations.1

Practice Good Posture

  • Keep your back straight, upright and avoid over extending your reach while raking to minimize strain on your back and hamstring muscles. Make certain you are always facing your work and moving your feet to avoid twisting your back when raking.1
  • Keep one foot in front of the other, bend your knees slightly and move your whole body to keep the load close. When raking, switch your lead foot often to spread the load out between both legs.1 When lifting, move your feet so they are facing the load to avoid twisting and always bend at your knees.1,3
  • Alternate hand positions on the rake to avoid overuse on one arm.1

Work Smarter, Not Harder2

  • If you don’t have too many leaves in your yard, consider using your lawnmower to mulch the leaves, which will decompose and add nutrients to the soil. If you have a large amount, this may not be a good option as an excessive amount can stifle your grass growth.
  • Consider the use of power tools like a blower to move all the leaves into one area that can later be bagged.
  • Reduce your work load by raking leaves or blow them with a blower onto a tarp. You can tie the ends and transport them to the desired location. The tarp can be rolled into a cylinder and used a funnel to get the leaves into lawn bags.
  • Consider a yard vacuum with a built-in shredder. This will shred the leaves so that they will take up less space and can be easily dumped into bags. This makes it easier to reach leaves under bushes, over rock or mulch and other difficult to places to reach.
  • Use some teamwork! Recruit your kids or a partner. If you let the kids jump in the pile of leaves every now and then, it can turn a chore into playtime!

Safety Considerations

  • Remember to not overfill your bags which can make them heavier and more difficult to lift.4
  • Wear gloves, long pants and sleeves to protect your hands and skin from scratches and bugs.2
  • Avoid raking when leaves are wet as the water adds excess weight to the job.2
  • Be sure to stay hydrated when performing any activity outside and take frequent rest breaks as needed.2

Preparing for the Next Season

  • When cutting spent blooms and foliage from plants, use a foam pad to protect your knees or sit on a stool to save your back from stooping. Make certain your tools are sharp as this will require less force through the hands and forearms.4
  • If you still have any energy left once the leaves are raked up, consider planting some flower bulbs! Fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs. Instead of hand digging, a bulb auger can be placed in a power drill. Use the low torque setting and work the auger up and down to loosen the soil until you get to a depth of 6-8 inches. When those blooms come up in the spring, you will be so glad you put in that extra work -even for years to come!3

If you experience any aches or pains after your fall chores are complete, consider contacting an Athletico expert to assess your pain – for free. Free assessments are available in-clinic or virtually through our telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1.Resource, CyberPT – Physical Therapy. “PT Classroom – Injury Prevention Tips For Raking Leaves & Shoveling Snow ׀ by Sean Sheerin, PTA.” CyberPT, www.cyberpt.com/rakeshovel.asp.
2. Taylor, Glenda. “10 Leaf-Raking Lessons No One Ever Taught You.” Bob Vila, Bobvila.com, 9 Oct. 2017, www.bobvila.com/slideshow/10-leaf-raking-lessons-no-one-ever-taught-you-51553.
3. Gardener, Erin @ The Impatient, and About Erin @ The Impatient Gardener View all posts by Erin @ The Impatient Gardener. “HOW TO USE A BULB AUGER (AND PLANT BULBS IN MINUTES).” The Impatient Gardener, 9 Oct. 2018, www.theimpatientgardener.com/how-to-use-bulb-auger/.
4. Wagenfeld, A., Buresh, G., (2019) Healthy Gardening, Aota.org, www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/Adults/gardening.aspx.

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