Avoid Fall Clean Up Injuries

During the fall, weekends are filled with annual chores of raking, bagging, blowing and mulching the leaves.  
While it is a great workout, each year thousands of people need treatment for back, neck and shoulder injuries! 
To avoid injuries to your back, neck, shoulders and wrists while you’re cleaning up leaves, here are some tips:

1. Choose a rake that is light and easy to use for your size/strength.  And if it’s cold and damp outdoors, stretch more and make sure you’re warmly dressed.  Cold makes muscles and tendons tighten up and become good candidates for injury.

2. Stretch – Before and After: Do a little “warming up” before you start tossing leaves around.  A walk around the yard to loosen up the legs, and gently rotate your back and neck to let them know they’ll be getting a workout soon.  Windmill your shoulders to loosen them up.  5-10 Minutes of stretching before and after you rake will work wonders.

3. Switch Hands: Most people keep their hands in the same position on the rake. Followed by over an hour or two of raking, this puts ‘repetitive stress’ on only one side of back/ neck/shoulders.  Simply switch the position of your hands, and alternate hands frequently, and you’ll feel
better when the leaves are done!

4. Use Your Legs, Not Your Back: Of course you know to bend and lift with your legs (not your back), but when raking leaves it’s also important not to reach too far with the rake and extend your back (and possibly hurt it).  Stay in a normal, upright position and use shorter raking strokes instead of long, reaching strokes.

5. Hand Blowers: The natural tendency when you use a hand blower is to bend slightly forward from the waist to get the right angle to blow the leaves.  While it might be fine for your leaves, it’s terrible positioning for your lower back. Stay upright and avoid the tendency to bend!

6.  When mulching those leaves, don’t overload the basket.  Remember to bend at the knees when dumping the basket into a trash can or compost pile.  Make sure the can doesn’t get to heavy or you could strain your back when lifting it or moving it.  Eye protection should be used, as well.

7. While leaf raking is a bit of a chore, it’s often done in spectacular fall weather conditions which make it easy and enjoyable to be outside.  Take your time (the leaves aren’t going anywhere fast) and don’t try to load up those tarps with all of the leaves at one time!  Dragging the tarps around (particularly by yourself) is a common cause of back pain.

So, enjoy this last part of the fall season and be good to your body!

~Dr. Richard Sowerby, D.C.

Certified Master, Nutrition Response TestingSM

*This information has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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