Autumn is my favourite time of year – Warm woolly sweaters, frosty morning spent in front of a fire and hiking in the beautiful autumn leaves. Of course, with these leaves comes raking. (Not a Canadian favourite.) How can we do this safely without causing shoulder and back pain? There are a few simple guidelines that you can follow.
1. Warm up: Most of us know to warm up before we do sports, but raking can be just as hard on the body. A brisk 10 minute walk can do the trick.
2. Watch your technique: Step forward and back to collect the leaves. Stooping and reaching with your spine can trigger low back pain. Also, use your feet to turn. Bending and twisting at the same time can be very risky and can cause back pain.
3. Use your knees to lift: Although leaves are not usually heavy, the repetitive motion of bagging the leaves can also cause low back pain. Squat to pick up the leaves uses the big muscles of your legs and bottom to do the work. If this causes knee pain, talk to you physiotherapist for healthy and safe alternatives.
4. Take breaks: Switch activities every 10-15 minutes to let muscles rest. This can change from raking to bagging to weeding the garden. Although you are still working on cleaning up the yard, different muscles are in use, spreading the demand through the body.
5. Don’t do it all at once: Listen to your body, if it is telling you that enough is enough, then stop for a couple of hours, or even a couple of days, the leaves are not going anywhere.
6. Wear proper footwear: Damp leaves can be slippery. Make sure to wear sturdy footwear to prevent slips and falls.
7. Double check: if you have a heart condition, talk to your doctor before taking on this chore.