Gorgeous, vibrant colorful leaves: they are what make our Michigan autumns so beautiful. The leaves are everywhere, by the sides of roads and highways, in parks and forests…and in our lawns. We know we will eventually need to remove those leaves from our lawns. We are also aware that we have to attend to the chore before the first snowfall and before too many rainstorms make the leaves too difficult to move.
But for pain sufferers, we need to find ways to rake the leaves while still protecting our back. Raking leaves often includes bending, twisting and lifting. We need to be mindful of our body position and mechanics, so that we don’t cause pain or exacerbate pain we already experience. Obviously, a leaf blower that you can comfortably tote will make shorter work of raking, but you typically will still need to rake at some point in the operation.
Here are a few tips on preserving your upper and lower back and reducing the chances for straining for neck and shoulders:
- Warm Up: Just like all exercise, you don’t want to go straight from the bed to the flowerbeds. Do some light stretching or calisthenics before you even attack the leaves, especially if you live a particularly sedentary lifestyle.
- The Right Rake: Be sure that your rake “fits” you, that it it is not too heavy and neither too long nor too short.
- Just Shoe It: Wear supportive shoes that aid in good balance and protect you from the elements.
- Love the Glove: Gloves protect your hands from blisters and of course the Michigan chills.
- No Twisted Sisters: You really have to be mindful of how you move your body. Plant yourselves in front of the leaves and move the leaves forward or backward without twisting your spine or shoulders.
- Change Your Stance and Your Hands: According to the American Chiropractic Association: “When raking, use a “scissors” stance: right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes, then reverse, putting your left foot forward and right foot back.”
- Heads Up: Try to look forward and up as much as possible to prevent neck strain and soreness.
- Bend at the Knees: Avoid bending at the waist as much as you can. Bending the knees saves your back.
- Stop and Stretch: After 15-20 minutes, stop for a moment and stand fully with the rake on the ground, hands on the hips and gently bend backwards. Do this 3-5 times before returning to your raking.
- Hydrate: Bring your water bottle outside with you and take frequent breaks. If you are sweating, you need to drink a bit.
- Rejuvenate: After you are done, do some light stretching and take a nice warm bath or shower to help relax those muscles. And just think: you won’t have to do this again for a while!