The last couple of weeks has brought in a slew of patients that have hurt themselves doing yard work and I always ask them the same thing … did you warm-up before you started?
I should take pictures of the looks that people give me!
Yes, you need to warm up before you rake leaves, just as you would any endeavor where you are going to use your body.
Let’s breakdown the mechanics of raking leaves. Lots of twisting, typically bent forward, and typically only raking in one direction.
This is a recipe for disaster.
If you want your structure (spine) to treat you right, you must treat it right.
Bent forward and turning is the absolute worst thing you can do to your spine. Doing it cold, without warming up, and you might as well drive straight to my office as soon as you are done!
There is a better way.
First off, stretch.. it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, think basic calisthenics. Make sure you include your shoulders, back, and legs. Don’t forget about the legs!
As you are getting limber, make a plan. Do you have proper rakes, gloves, tarps, bags etc.
If you are raking, remember to keep your posture upright. No bending and twisting. Also, remember, you have two hands, use them! Rake one direction, the rake the other direction. This ensures that you are rotating in both directions and not just in one.
Are you bagging the leaves? If so, make many little piles to pick up so you have to take a break and walk from pile to pile. Are you dragging the leaves to an area? Make sure you don’t overload the tarp to the point that you can’t pull it with ease.
Can you mow the leaves with a bag attachment?
Once you start working, please remember, take frequent breaks. These leaves do not need to be picked up in the next hour. Take your time, your body will thank you!