If your home is subjected to leaves falling each year, you’ll have to rake them up, and probably more than once each season. And you’ll almost certainly know about the consequences of leaf-raking on the body, including strain and pain in the neck, the upper and lower back, and in the shoulders.
Just because you’re not chasing around a football pitch or playing a racquet sport doesn’t mean your body isn’t suffering the stresses of exercise. But whereas you might routinely warm up before sport or exercise, it may not occur to you to do the same before such activities as raking the leaves in your garden. Without a good warm-up, you run the risk of injury.
How to Make Raking Easier on Your Body
- Stretch smoothly before you commence work, and throughout, performing knee-to-chest stretches, trunk rotations, and side bends with hands above the head, palms up and fingers weaved. Spend 10 to 15 minutes all together on your stretching. Intersperse the work with a short walk to get the circulation going throughout the body, and do the same stretches as a cool-down once you’ve finished.
- As you rake, stand erect with your head held up.
- If possible, avoid working outside when it’s hot. In these circumstances, finish by 10am, or start after 6pm.
- Use a “scissors” stance when raking; that is, keep one foot forward for a few minutes, then swap and put the back foot forwards.
- When bending to pick up leaves or any other trash, bend at the knees not the waist.
- When mowing the lawn, put your whole body into the pushing, not just your arms and back.
- When starting a mower with a pull cord, bend at the knees and extend up in a smooth motion. Don’t twist at the waist or yank at the cord.
- Keep well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and wear a hat in the sun. Always wear shoes and protective glasses, and use gloves if your hands are likely to receive rough treatment that might raise blisters. When using loud machinery, employ ear-protectors, and if you suffer from asthma or allergies, use a mask.
- Try to use ergonomically-friendly tools that help take the strain from your muscles and joints.
- An ice-pack can be used to ease any discomfort you feel following raking or other outdoor work. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic if this doesn’t ease within 2 or 3 days.
Dr. Connor McCormick