Rakes and Pains

It is Fall again! time for apple cider, pumpkin spice or 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 chores and thus moderate exercise.

Cleaning the lawn comes with a host of benefits for your yard, too, such as:

  • It can encourage grass growth in the spring
  • It prevents snow mold diseases in your plants
  • It prevents turf damage from animals like mice and voles 

In addition to moderate exercise, leaf raking is a good calorie burner. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), here is an estimate of how many calories people with the following weights burn during an hour of yard work, like raking:

100 pounds:​ 181 calories

125 pounds:​ 226 calories

150 pounds:​ 272 calories

175 pounds:​ 317 calories

200 pounds:​ 362 calories

225 pounds:​ 408 calories

250 pounds:​ 453 calories

275 pounds:​ 498 calories

300 pounds:​ 544 calories

Despite the benefits of raking leaves, there are a few challenges. Unfortunately, 40,000 Americans suffer injuries from raking each year! If you do get hurt raking, we can help! Common injuries include upper and/or lower back strain, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

Top 10 Tips for Raking

  1. Planning the area and time that you will be raking, getting others to help, and breaking the job into smaller tasks will make it easier for everyone.
  2. Warm up with stretching for 15 – 20 minutes before and during your yard work. Take breaks. This will allow your muscles to rest and will minimize strain. Be sure to focus on your wrists, hands, neck, shoulders, back and hips.
  3. Wear proper gear. Sturdy shoes with skid-resistant soles reduce slip risk especially if leaves are wet. Eyewear, work gloves and layers are game changers and raking-approved.
  4. Use proper gear. Leaf clean-up can be a breeze with the right tools in hand. A comfortable lightweight rake that is chin-height is best. Ergonomic rakes often have padded handles to reduce strain on the hands and wrists, with special handles that encourage good posture by ensuring that the elbows are slightly bent. Smaller bags that are easy to manage to bag leaves. A tarp is essential for street pick-up. If all else fails, a leaf blower and a landscaper have their advantages.
  5. Form:
    1. Hold the rake handle close to your body and stand up straight. Your hands should be able to hold the rake 18″ to 24″ apart, too short and you can hurt your back; too heavy and you can strain your shoulders and neck. Keep one hand near the top of the rake with the other hand placed low enough on the rake that that elbow would be at ~30-50-degree bend for better leverage.
    2. Stance:  When raking leaves, use a “scissors stance.” Right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes, then switch. Change sides frequently to avoid overusing one side of your body.
    3. Bend at the knee with one foot ahead of the other instead of bending at your waist. When leaves are under the rake, pull them straight back towards your body.
  6. Change sides and alternate hands frequently to balance the workload on your body.
  7. Bagging. Be careful not to overstuff the bags. Pack fewer leaves in the bags when they are wet as they are also heavier. If a bag is large and awkward to lift, walk backward pulling the bag, or use a handcart or dolly to move it. Rake the leaves onto the tarp, then pull the tarp to take the leaves where you need them to be. This is a quicker and safer way than constantly bending over to manually pick up piles of leaves to rake into a garbage bag or wheelbarrow.
  8. Stay hydrated and cool down with stretches when you have finished. Celebrate a job well done.
  9. Most IMPORTANTLY listen to your body. PAIN is an indication that something is WRONG! Sudden, sharp pain, or dull, incessant aching pain while raking leaves should never be ignored. Stop working if the pain persists.
  10. Enjoy nature, crisp cool air, the colors of the season and perhaps a hot toddy.  Reflect on a quote by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing “Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

Consider raking leaves for your neighbors or friends that cannot because they are senior citizens, veterans, and those with disabilities.

If an injury, ache, or pain occurs, consider contacting Optimal Physical Therapy so a movement expert can assess your pain – for free. Remember, injuries that are improperly treated or neglected can worsen as time passes, possibly even causing permanent disabilities or conditions.

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