As autumn settles in, the colors change from lush green to vibrant orange, and eventually a crunchy brown. It’s also time for the annual ritual of autumn raking. On the surface, the job sounds simple enough – grab a rake and pull all the leaves into a pile. However, danger lurks in those piles!
- Warm-Up– Raking is a workout. Every workout is safer if you’ve given your body a brief warm-up like walking around the yard or stretching. Raking uses the muscles in your arms, chest, shoulders, back, and legs. A simple 10-minute warm-up will tell your heart, mind, and muscles that it’s time to get moving.
- Avoid Twisting – Although Chubby Checker might not agree, twisting is a motion you want to avoid when raking. Shift your weight by using your legs instead of your back. One of the worst raking moves you can make is throwing leaves over your shoulder or to the side. These twisting movements can strain the back and knee muscles.
- Watch Your Back – Try bending at the knees to pick up leaves or bags. This will put less pressure on your back. Don’t overfill the bags, especially if the leaves are wet. You should be able to carry the bags comfortably.
- Use the Right Size Rake – You’ll be doing repetitive motions so avoid a rake that is too heavy or too short. Select a rake that is long enough so that you can maneuver without bending your back. Likewise, make sure your rake isn’t too heavy for you to handle.
- Hand Protection – Wear gloves to protect the hands from cuts, blisters, and insects.
- Use a Leaf Blower – There are many gas and electric leaf blowers that are handheld. By blowing all the leaves into a large pile you can save time and energy. Always use the strap that comes with your leaf blower, so you don’t put extras stress on your arms.
- Take Breaks –Remember, raking is a cardiovascular workout. Taking regular breaks can help assess any pain or discomfort that you may be experiencing.
- Alternate sides– Most people are either right or left dominant. Making a conscious effort to use both sides of your body can help decrease the risk of overuse injuries. For example, rake right-handed for 5 minutes and then switch to rake left-handed for 5 minutes. Alternating in this way helps distribute the strain evenly to both sides of the body.
- Hydrate –To avoid potential dehydration, it’s important to drink liquids during your raking workout.
- Cool Down –The football game can wait. Before tossing your rake to the side and relaxing on the couch, make sure to spend a few minutes cooling down. Safely reducing your heart rate while gently stretching your muscles can help reduce the risk of injury.
Benefits of PT Treatment from Injury
If you suffer an injury while doing yardwork please contact us to schedule an appointment. If you choose to see your primary care physician first, you may be told to take pain relievers and call back if the pain hasn’t gotten better on its own. Then if your pain persists, they may refer you to a physical therapist. Save time and money by visiting us first. One of our licensed physical therapists will diagnose your injury and start you on a customized plan for recovery.
What to Expect At Physical Therapy
When you’ve suffered an injury from raking or doing yard work, there are many approaches to your treatment that your physical therapists may suggest. Your treatments may include:
- Manual Physical Therapy or Deep Friction Massage – This may include soft tissue work, including massage, which applies pressure to the muscles or deep friction massage is used to reverse muscle and soft tissue constraint. Deep pressure is applied in a transverse direction across the injured tissue to aid in healing and reduce pain.
- Range of Motion – Exercises, and stretches may be recommended to reduce stiffness and help the area begin to move properly.
- IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization) – This helps break down fascial restrictions and scar tissue. The design of this tool provides PTs with the ability to locate restrictions and treat the affected area with the appropriate amount of pressure.
- Dry Needling This helps with muscle strain and injury, pain management, flexibility, tissue restoration, and faster healing. Sterile needles are used to normalize the neural input of the contracted muscle fibers and the fascia, reducing inflammation, improving blood circulation, and thus reducing the tension in the tissue.
Your physical therapist may also recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to do at home to reduce your pain and help prevent future injuries.
Remember, raking the yard is an intense workout using many muscles and joints in the body. We hope these tips will help keep you safe.
If you do decide to hurdle yourself into a huge pile of leaves, and trip in the process... we are here to assist in your recovery efforts.
Yours for improved safety,
Dr. Christian Jones / Littleton Peak Clinic