Don't rake in the pain

By Cheryl Witter 

I love fall. Warm sweaters, delicious apples, the popular pumpkin-spiced latte — and leaves. Lots of leaves.

Raking becomes a part of everyone's weekend to-do list. It can be quite enjoyable, but it also can be tireless work involving repetitive movements of bending,reaching,twisting and lifting.

All these movements done for long periods of time can cause soreness and even injury. Especially to the mid/low back and elbows.So don't be embarrassed about waking up Monday morning sore after a marathon-raking weekend.

Physiotherapists get it. We see it every fall. So to prevent your raking adventure from becoming a burden, here are some helpful tips: 

  • Change your heavy old rake for an updated ergonomic rake. These are lighter. And come with a padded handle and a bent shaft. Much friendlier on your body. 
  • Hold the rake close to your body and keep one hand near the top.This gives better leverage. 
  • Keep your back straight and your elbows slightly bent. Avoid gripping the rake too tightly.Your elbow muscles and tendons do not like this at all. 
  • Face the pile and rake the leaves toward your body in a front-to-back motion.The tendency is to plant the feet in a fixed position and to rake in several different directions from that position. Instead place one foot ahead of the other.This allows you to shift forward and backward easily as you rake.Your low back will be happier. 
  • Don't reach or twist to get those last few leaves
  • Alternate hand and leg positions every so often so to lessen repetitive strain on one side of the body. 
  • Bend from the hips and knees,not your back when picking up leaves or bagged leaves. 
  • If you have to stoop,face the pile of leaves and don't twist as you lift.  
  • When lifting the bag of leaves, tense your stomach muscles to give your low back more support. And remember to keep the bag close to your body Lifting and low back injuries often occur when the spine is bent forward 30 degrees with a heavy load being carried (bag of leaves). So back straight. 

Raking can be a perfect storm for injuries. For days on end, there is twisting, reaching, lifting and gripping. ,activities we don't do regularly.

So warm up, pace yourself ,take breaks (pumpkin spiced latte or pumpkin flavoured beer) and adopt good techniques for raking by using these tips.

Don't rush the job.That's where improper technique shows up. And that could mean a very sore back on Monday. Enjoy your raking.

Soon you will be shovelling.

Cheryl Witter is a physiotherapist at North End Spine and Sports.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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