As the months turn cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, few of us think twice about pulling out the rake and cleaning up the lawn. Truth is, too many injuries happen at this time of year due to poor posture while raking or even from the lack of warming up before hand. Raking is just like any other exercise, and proper precautions should be taken. In my line of work I have seen so many come in for a massage because of back and neck pain which has occurred during raking the lawn or shoveling snow. There are a few things that can help prevent injury while working outside this season.
Many of us go out several times a fall season to rake the leaves, and rush through just to get the job done. Instead wait until the trees have lost all of their leaves and plan for a weekend to get the entire job done all at once. Ask for help if you need it. When the leaves are raked often, a tendency to rush and cut corners is common. This can result in tight or strained muscles because we don’t think to warm up before hand.
Make sure you dress accordingly. Not only dressing in light layers that allow the body to sweat, but make sure you are wearing comfortable and supportive footwear for the task. This will prevent you from getting sick if you are not warm enough and proper shoes can prevent pain in the legs, knees and lower back. Gloves are also recommended which will help with gripping the rake handle properly.
Not all rakes are created equal. Choose a rake that is suitable for your height, so that you are not bending more than you need to. Although you might be temped to buy cheaper take into consideration that the lighter the rake the more energy you need in order to lift it. Look for one that’s not plastic and has a handle with a good grip. Ergonomic rakes are also an available choice. Don’t be too quick to buy a rake, shop around for one that works best for you.
Raking is great exercise, and can burn up to 300 calories for one hour of work. With any exercise I recommend stretching before hand, to warm up the muscles and prevent injury. Most of the cases of back and neck pain I see in the clinic are due to lack of stretching before exercising. Do stretches for the shoulders, neck and back as well as the legs before raking. If you are unsure of the proper stretches ask your massage therapist or other health care professional.
Taking breaks as often as you need them is key. As much as most people see raking as a chore, and want to get the job done as fast as possible, not takings much needed breaks shouldn’t be an option. This also can lead to extreme muscles soreness that can last for days after an activity. Make sure you have a water bottle handy and make sure you keep yourself hydrated. With activity, water is lost through sweating and you need to make sure you are replenishing the body.
The last but also the most important piece of advice I have is practicing proper posture. Make sure you are not bending from the waist but from the knees. Try to avoid any twisting movement that will add strain the the lower back. Again I will emphasize, always ask for help if you need it.