We love the fall season. It brings cooler weather, yummy food, football and lots and lots of LEAVES! As pretty as the leaves are when they change colors, they can also leave a mess in the yard. One of the top reasons chiropractors see patients this time of year is back and neck injuries from raking leaves. Here are our top doctor-recommend tips for how to avoid lower back pain from raking leaves!
Raking leaves is a great form of exercise. It’s physically challenging and requires you to use your upper and lower body muscles. As with any kind of exercise, you should properly warm up so that your muscles are ready for activity. We recommend using a series of dynamic stretches. Stretching before will bring blood flow to the muscles and reduce risk of injury.
It is also important to stretch after raking leaves. Raking leaves uses many different muscle groups in the body. Some of those muscle groups might not be used to being used. You will definitely thank yourself the next day if you take 5-10 minutes to cool down after you are done.
One of the most important tips to avoid back pain from raking leaves is to keep a neutral spine. This means that you keep the natural curves intact. You do not want to be hunched over or standing stick straight. When you hunch over to rake leaves, it places extra strain on your back.
To ensure you are maintaining proper position, you want to make sure you are bending at the knees, not the waist. This will help you keep a neutral spine. Make sure your feet are place in a “scissors” stance. Place your right foot forward and left foot back and bend at the knees. Then, stand up, switch your feet positioning, and resume raking.
By taking breaks and switching your stance, you allow your muscles rest and reset. When muscles become fatigued, it is harder to maintain proper form and can lead to injury.
Don’t Twist and Turn
No matter what size your yard is, you most likely won’t be able to stay in one place to collect all of the leaves. It can often be tempting to try to stay in one place and twist and turn to reach as many leaves as possible. Excessive twisting can place too much strain on your spine and lead to lower back pain. When you are raking, it is important to remember to not over twist, turn or bend to reach the leaves. You should only rake what you can reach with proper form.
Once you have cleaned up everything in that specific area, pick up the rake and plant you feet in a new area. To avoid back pain from raking leaves, reset your stance so you can maintain the scissors position without hunching over or overextending your reach. Overextending your reach can also lead to neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
Relax and Hydrate
You do not have to do the entire yard in 15 minutes. It’s important to remember to take breaks. We recommend raking for 10 to 15 minutes then taking a break.
Raking leaves utilizes different muscle groups that may not be used to working every day. By taking breaks, you allow these muscles to rest and also maintain proper form to avoid injury.
During your breaks, make sure you are hydrating. Just because it might be a bit cooler outside, does not mean you can’t become dehydrated.
Did you know you don’t actually feel as thirsty during colder weather? This is because your blood vessels constrict to conserve heat.
In addition, sweat actually evaporates more quickly in cold air. Even if you don’t feel hot or don’t think you’re sweating, you can still become dehydrated from raking leaves. Make sure to hydrate throughout the day while raking!
Another easy, helpful tip is to wear supportive shoes with good arch support. This will help provide your feet with the stability they need to maintain proper form. It will also give you the most cushion so that there isn’t too much pressure on your knees and hips.
If you have a leaf blower, make sure the wear strap on opposite shoulder than the you are using the leaf blower with. This will help you maintain your center of gravity and also evenly distribute the weight so that one side is not overloaded with weight.
If you’re using the leaf blower for a prolonged period of time, switch sides every 15-20 minutes to help maintain balance and avoid back pain.
Get Treated at Kaizo Health
Our goal at Kaizo Health is to always get you back to feeling 100%. Our doctors provide treatment to help you be pain-free. We also have a dedicated team that will work with you and your insurance. We want to make sure you get the most from your benefits. You should experience relief for as little cost to you as possible. If you are ready to experience relief from the pain, make an appointment to see us now.
Kaizo Health offers locations in Rockville, MD; Landover, MD; Fort Washington, MD; and Fairfax, VA. Our doctors an evidence-based approach by combining chiropractic care and individualized rehabilitative exercises. We provide the treatment and resources you need to recover your health. We are here to help! If you’d like more information, check out our blog. You can also take our free virtual self-assessment on app here.