Jumping in piles of leaves can be great fun, but raking them up afterward can leave you with an aching back.
Each year, more than 76,000 Americans are hurt while raking leaves or using other manual garden tools. That’s according to The Center for Physical Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at The Chester County Hospital at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
One reason why these injuries may occur is that raking leaves forces people to use several different muscle groups, the center explained. But certain precautions can help people doing yard work avoid these injuries.
Sports medicine and physical rehabilitation specialists advise taking the following steps:
- Warm up and cool down. Just like any physical activity, it’s important to warm up before raking leaves. It’s also a good idea to stretch first. Try trunk rotation, shoulder and wrist stretches. Once you’re finished raking, remember to cool down and stretch again to ease muscle tension.
- Clear debris. Be sure to remove sticks or other debris before raking to avoid falling.
- Use proper equipment. Your rake should be the appropriate size for your height and strength. Wear gloves to avoid blisters.
- Consider your footwear. Be sure your shoes are skid-resistant so you don’t slip and fall.
- Avoid twisting motions. Shift your weight with your legs. Don’t throw leaves over your shoulder. Rake towards you, not away from you. This will ease strain on your back muscles.
- Protect your back. Bend at the knees with your back straight to pick up leaves or bags and avoid bending over. This will ease the pressure on your back. Leaf bags should not be too heavy so you can pick them up without excessive strain.
- Take breaks. Raking is an aerobic activity. Remember to take breaks and drink plenty of water. Chest pain or shortness of breath could be a sign of a life-threatening emergency. If you have these symptoms, call 911 right away.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on the yard work safety.
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