The Chiro Corner

Raking Leaves? Avoid Back Pain with these Tips

Raking Leaves? Avoid Back Pain with these Tips

Fall leaves — so pretty on the trees, can be a nuisance when they hit the ground. Before you reach for your rake, read these tips to make your yard work hurt a whole lot less this fall.

Warm Up Thoroughly

  • Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles.
  • Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity.
  • Get your blood moving with a brisk walk, marching in place, or another full-body activity.
  • Stretch your low back and hamstrings (the large muscles in the back of the thigh) with some gentle stretching exercises. The easiest way to do this is lying on the ground with one leg straight done and the other being pulled towards your body. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to one minute, repeat and do the same on the other leg.

hamstring stretch

Keep Your Feet on the Ground

  • Slippery conditions while shoveling can lead to slipping and/or falls and strains that can injure your back.
  • Shoes or boots with good treads will help to minimize injuries from slipping.

Ergonomic Gardening Tips

  • To avoid lifting, rake leaves onto a canvas tarp. When full, pull the tarp and unload the debris to the desired location.
  • Gloves should be form-fitting. Thin gloves are preferred; too much padding will decrease hand strength, coordination and power grip.
  • Elbows should be kept below heart level as much as possible. The use of long-handed tools or taking periodic breaks to minimize such movements will keep your body in a comfortable position.
  • Avoid working with your thumbs pointing toward the floor. This arm position “wings” your elbow out and reduces your applied strength while adding stress to the body.

Male raking leaves
MOST IMPORTANTLY, TAKE PERIODIC BREAKS 

Comments (7)

    • Thanks Sunil! Yes, that’s definitely a very important piece to remember “bend the knees” 🙂 Thanks for your comment!!!

  1. I didn’t know using different types of gloves would change so much. Can what gloves you wear affect your back? Muscles behave in strange ways, so I wouldn’t be surprised. I was once trying to open a pickle jar, putting all my might into the dang thing because it wouldn’t open, and I got massive cramps in my neck.

  2. Recently I was doing yard work, and raking leaves was indeed among the jobs to do. After a few hours I think I really hurt my back, but it doesn’t feel like a simple sore back that can be fixed after lying down for a few hours. We are thinking about checking out a chiropractor, and we will remember these tips for the next time that I have to rake leaves so I don’t do anything that would worsen whatever condition it is that I have. Thanks for the tips.

  3. I was raking this weekend, just to get the leftover leaves off the lawn for this spring and my back started to hurt. It’s interesting that warming up can help reduce the pain. I think this could be very helpful for me, as I often experience back pain when doing labor work. Thanks for the post!

  4. I didn’t realize that less is more when it comes to padding in gloves! I’ve been thinking I need gloves with more padding since my old gloves are starting to wear down in places, but now I think I’ll stick with some thin gloves made of a slightly tougher material. That way I can minimize the amount of effort I have to put into the yard work and hopefully save my back from too much extra pain before my next chiropractic appointment!

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