Fall is in full force! The air is crisper and cooler, pumpkin spice lattes are on every corner, and the leaves have changed their colors. With that color change comes the extra yard work of raking leaves. Don’t be fooled. These little guys can cause a big hurt on your back causing you to get laid up on the couch faster than after eating a pound of Thanksgiving turkey! At least after the turkey you feel good and full. A hurt back is another story. So below are seven ways to keep your back healthy this fall (and beyond).
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Everyone should be doing some kind of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 days per week. This should be a combination of cardiovascular exercise to build endurance and resistance training to build strength. For your back, core strength and conditioning is key to longer term success. You may be thinking that it’s November, too late to get prepared. That may be so, but snow shoveling season is just around the bend. So prepare now and start working those muscles!
The proper tool can make all the difference. Look for a rake with a long enough handle so you can remain as upright as possible. Some are ergonomically designed with the spine in mind. Rakes with thicker handles can decrease fatigue in your hands
Raking can be deceptively hard work. Depending on the size of your yard and how many trees you have, it can be hours of work. This means you need to warm-up your muscles a bit you they are ready to go. Go for a brisk walk, do a few core exercises, and some gentle range of motion exercises for your shoulders and hips. Your back and body will thank you for it later.
Keep your legs slightly bent, weight centered between your feet, and your back straight. Reach and pull with your arms and not your back. Keep your raking stroke short and controlled to prevent over extending yourself. Avoid twisting by shuffling your steps around and move from your hips in order to get to other areas around you.
This point is crucial especially if you have not been conditioned to tolerate long hours of work. Break up your raking sessions into 15-30 min sessions with enough time to rest fully in between. Consider breaking up the job into a few days. Those leaves will still be there tomorrow! Just cover your pile in a weighted tarp to prevent them from blowing all over.
Bend at the knees and hips, not your back. Get a firm grip on the bag close to your body and engage your core muscles before you perform the lift. Don’t overload the bag with too many leaves or it may be too heavy for you.
Dry leaves are lighter and easier to deal with than wet leaves. It may not seem like much while you rake, but the extra moisture that comes with those leaves can be a bigger deal when it comes time to lift your bags.
Not all leaves make it to the ground; unfortunately, many may end up in your gutter. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2012, more that 35,500 people were injured while using a stepladder. Avoid potential falls with the following tips:
You can make it through the fall with a healthy back and clean yard. But if something does go wrong and you hurt your back, don’t push through it. Reach out to us at Virginia Spine Institute for a full and comprehensive evaluation.