Fall leaf cleanup

Fall leaf cleanupCrisp air, pumpkin spice everything, and autumn leaves. Although fall foliage is beautiful and colorful, dealing with the cleanup is usually everyone’s least favorite thing about the season. Raking, pruning plants, and getting rid of yard waste can be extremely strenuous. While your fall cleanup may feel like a chore, it is physical activity and can be a great workout. However, the continuous bending and lifting can cause strain, so it’s important to be careful and make sure it’s done properly to avoid injury. Here are some ways to get through your fall cleanup without injury.

  1. Wait until most of the leaves have fallen and try not to rake after a rainfall when the leaves are wet and heavy. You may also want to consider breaking up the task into manageable segments (front lawn one day, back lawn the next) to prevent strain.
  2. Make sure you have the proper equipment such as gloves an appropriately sized lightweight rake that is designed for leaf cleanup and is proportionate to your body size.
  3. Just like with any physical activity, it’s important to warm up and stretch before you begin. Take a walk, do some circular arm movements, and stretch your neck, shoulders, back and hamstrings.
  4. Don’t forget to hydrate. Rigorous yardwork is a real work out so be sure to drink plenty of water and take breaks as needed.
  5. Be mindful of your posture and body mechanics.
  • Use your whole body, not just your arms. Let your hips and feet help.
  • Maintain a balanced posture. Make sure you keep your feet shoulder width apart during raking.
  • While raking use a scissors stance (keeping one foot slightly head of the other, switching regularly) as you move.
  • Bend at your knees not your waist, when raking and lifting bags.
  • Switch hands frequently while raking to avoid strain on one side.
  • Avoid twisting your back as you rake and pick up leaves.
  1. When disposing of leaves don’t overfill bags and make them too heavy. Try dragging the bags using a tarp or use a wheelbarrow to move them.
  2. If you’re planning on climbing a ladder to clean your gutters make sure it is sturdy, on firm straight ground, fully opened and locked. Always have someone with you to help, and always face the gutters straight on without twisting your spine. Make sure you wear slip resistant soled shoes.
  3. Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, natural fibers to provide warmth without trapping sweat, and long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent bug bites, scratches, poison ivy, and sun exposure. Wear closed toe shoes or boots for comfort and stability.
  4. When you’re done, do some gentle post-work stretching, or take a hot bath to relax your muscles.


David J. BenEliyahu, DC, DAAPM, DABCSP is the Administrative Director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital.