Fall is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful seasons of the year. There is so much to look forward to like cooler temperatures, football, warm fires, great holidays and, of course, the changing leaves. Spending a crisp, fall afternoon raking leaves is a wonderful staple of the season, but if you’re not careful, it can lead to nights filled with back pain and discomfort. Don’t let back pain keep you indoors this season. Follow these simple tips while you’re raking so that you can enjoy fall to its fullest.
1. Get Loose
Spend a couple minutes before you start raking lightly stretching out and loosening your muscles. You should specifically focus on the areas that support your lower back and your arms. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be a major stretching event! Just take a couple minutes to warm up your muscles and get loose before you get down to business.
2. Pick A Rake That Works For You
Not all rakes are created equal. Before you hit the yard you should purchase a rake that is proportional to your body size. Picking a rake that is too long or to short can change your posture causing you to hunch or strain which can cause back pain. It’s also worth noting that the size of the rake head can make a significant difference. The bigger the rake, the more leaves you’ll pull and the more strain you’ll put on your back.
3. Focus On Your Posture
Posture is king when it comes to avoiding back pain. While you’re raking, make sure that you’re not bent over over as this will put unnecessary strain on your back and could quickly put you out of commission.
Your spine has natural curves which allow it distribute weight and give you movement flexibility. When you’re bent over, it’s natural for these curves to expand inward. However, if you’re hunched over for an extended period of time, you’re putting an excessive amount of pressure on the spine and the muscles that surround it which will almost inevitably lead to pain.
It’s not always easy or practical to maintain a straight and perfect posture while raking, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it. Try to keep your back as straight as possible and pull leaves with your arms, not your back. Then, every couple of minutes straighten up, place your hands on your hips and gently stretch your back for a couple of seconds.
4. Rake With Different Arms
We all have a dominate raking arm and it’s easy to heavily favor it while you’re out doing yardwork. However, switching arms every couple of minutes will not only allow you to rake longer, but will also keep you from putting too much strain on the muscles on one side of your back.
5. Lift With Your Legs, Not Your Back
It’s a classic saying, but it still holds true. The majority of your lifting power comes from your legs and buttocks, not your back, so putting pressure on it while picking up an object is unnecessary and can quickly cause pain. When lifting up a pile of leaves or a bag, make sure you bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible. If you’re following these steps and are still experiencing pain, try decreasing the weight of the piles or bags.
6. Drink Lots Of Water
It can be difficult to tell that you’re dehydrated in cooler weather because you’re probably not sweating as much as you would if it were hot. This makes it amply important to ensure that you’re drinking lots of water and keeping your body and muscles adequately hydrated. Studies have shown that drinking water is vital in maintaining good spine health and that people who drink the proper amount of water throughout the day (usually 1 cup for every 20 pounds of body weight), experience less back pain than those who don’t.
This is the case because there is fluid inside each of the spinal discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae and shock absorption. However, gravity causes the water within the gelatinous fluid to leak out of the discs throughout the day and if there isn’t enough water to replace the lost fluid, it will compress and put an excessive amount pressure on the outer ring of the disc. The results of this compression can be swelling, pain or even disc herniation.
7. Wear Good Shoes
Having a pair of shoes with good arch support will help you avoid back pain while you’re out raking leaves. Your feet are like a foundation of a building, if that foundation isn’t supported or solid, it will compromise everything above it. Standing on your feet all days naturally puts a lot of strain on your back and legs, but a good pair of shoes will help keep that pain away from your lower back.
8. Consider A Leaf Blower
We know we just made dozens of leaf-raking fanatics squirm in their seats, but don’t dismiss the idea too quickly. Sure, leaf blowers may take a little of the “personal touch” out of disposing of your leaves, but it will help you get the job down considerably quicker and will help put less strain on your back. There are many different types of leaf blowers you can buy, ranging from backpacks to electric that can perfectly suit your needs.
9. Move Your Hips
When you’re raking, you’re often surrounded by leaves on all sides. The most efficient way to get these is to twist around and keeping your feet semi-planted. However, this technique can cause you to rely too much on your spine. Rotate using your hips and shuffle your feet to help avoid pain.
10. Don’t Rush
They say that slow and steady wins the race and when it comes to protecting your back, they’re right. It’s easy to try and finish your raking and bagging as quickly and efficiently as possible, but by doing this you’re setting yourself up for a night of pain. Try to take breaks every 10-15 minutes so you can stretch our your back, drink water and rest your muscles. Unless you rake competitively, it’s not a race and finishing a couple minutes earlier isn’t worth the pain it could cause you later.
Follow these tips and you should keep your back happy and healthy throughout the wonderful fall season! Do you have any extra tips on how to protect your back? Let us know on Facebook!