avoid back pain raking fall leaves

By David BenEliyahu, DC, DAAPM, DABCSP, and Lisa Malcomson, PT, DPT, MS

leaf pileFall is here and, for many of us, it’s the season of pumpkins, crisp morning air and brightly colored leaves. And raking.

Before you head out to the yard to clean up all those leaves, consider these 10 tips that will help you avoid back and neck pain:

1. Stretch before you begin to rake just as you would before participating in a sport.

2. Use your whole body, not just your arms. Let your hips and feet help.

3. Make sure you keep your feet shoulder width apart during the “rake”.

4. Use a scissors stance as you move, right foot ahead of left and vice versa.

5. Bend at your knees not your waist, when raking.

6. Step and shift your weight toward the intended target.

7. Switch hands frequently to avoid strain on one side.

8. Place the rake slightly outside of your base of support in the leaves.

9. As your rake towards the pile, shift your entire body weight in that direction.

10. Avoid twisting your back as you rake and pick up leaves.

And, some additional tips to make the task less tasking on your back:

Timing: Wait until most of the leaves have fallen. Also, try not to rake after a rainfall when the leaves are wet and heavier. You may also want to consider breaking up the task into manageable segments (front lawn one day, back lawn the next) to prevent strain.

Equipment: Make sure you have an adult size lightweight rake that is designed for raking leaves and is proportionate to your body size. Wear proper footgear and gloves.

Hydrate: Rigorous raking is a real work out. Hydrate well and rest as needed.

Dr. David BenEliyahu, Administrative Director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital, has a private chiropractic practice in Selden. Lisa Malcomson is Director of Rehabilitation Services at Mather Hospital.