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By Dr. Jessica Fitzpatrick, DC

I see back injuries in clinical practice every fall related to the repetitive nature and inappropriate techniques with raking leaves. The optimal form of treatment is to be proactive and minimize the risk of injury with the proper know-how before you head outside to clean up the yard.
The beautiful fall crispness is in the air and Autumn in Nova Scotia is spectacular with so many wonderful things to do and see. The changing of the leaves can be breathtaking but unfortunately, it is also the season to have to rake these beautiful leaves. Raking is frequently associated with back pain and discomfort however taking some very easy precautions can make the experience much easier.
View of autumnal leaves in a garden
Warm up – It is key to think of raking as exercise. Just like any other form of exercise it is important to take 5-10 minutes to ensure the muscles are warmed up. Big dynamic movements help the blood flow to the muscles which makes them much less susceptible to injury.

The Right Fit – Using a rake that fits your size properly will decrease the risk of injury, particularly to the back. The rake should be chin height and should not be heavier than you are comfortable moving. Wide, plastic rakes are both lighter and generally make the task a little quicker.

Posture – Keeping an awareness of posture helps prevent putting too much stress on both the neck and lower back. Try to keep your head and chin back as much as possible and switch sides of holding the rake as often as you can. When picking up piles of leaves remember to bend from the legs and avoid twisting. Bring your bag/bin close to the pile and lift it directly in front of you.

Children Helping Parents To Collect Autumn Leaves In Garden
Pace Yourself – As with any activity it is important to pace yourself and not stress the body too intensely. Section the yard up and do them in stages or break them up over the course of several days. It is also a good idea to do smaller repeated sessions and stay ahead of them rather than wait to do one big job all at once. It is also key to take breaks as often as possible and to stay well hydrated. Dehydrated muscles are much more susceptible to injury than well-hydrated, flexible ones.

Proper Gear – Proper footwear that is both comfortable and has good support will help ease additional tension and stress on the body. Good grips that increase traction will help keep you steadier and less at risk of slipping and falling on potentially slippery leaves. Whenever possible use a leaf blower to make the task easier and faster.

Stretching – Again, like any other form of exercise, especially ones of a repetitive nature, stretching post-activity is key to helping prevent injury. Stretches should be long purposeful holds with no bouncing and should be held for approximately 30 seconds.

The Childs on the leaf season. The autumn season
Low back pain is often aggravated or caused by the repetitive nature of activities like raking. If you are still experiencing pain or discomfort that has lasted more than 48hrs it is recommended to seek treatment and address the underlying problem. We at Active Approach utilize a number of therapies including acupuncture, to help efficiently and effectively treat the cause of pain. If you are experiencing pain or are in need of advice to help address concerns such as these contact the clinic today.