Fall Safety Tips
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Fall cleanup has begun, and we all know that means raking and preparing our yards for another winter. Dr. Cheryl Abelow, owner of FlexPlus Physical Therapy & Balance Centers and physical therapist in Natick, MA says, "As beautiful as the autumn is in New England, I hate yard cleanup. Even as an active person, I'm sore afterwards because the motions used to do all the yardwork aren't typical daily motions."
There are many tips and tricks out there for making leaf cleanup as easy and pain-free as possible. There are a few factors which can be modified to make the task as easy as possible for you with minimal to no injury. These include clothing/equipment, stretching, posture/technique, and pacing.
(There is a large cardiovascular component to raking as well, and people with heart conditions and/or high blood pressure should consult a doctor prior to attempting this type of physical labor.)
Staying warm is key- dress in layers and wear supportive footwear with good grips to prevent slipping on wet leaves. Gloves are also helpful in gripping the rake and prevention of blisters.
Find a rake that fits your body with an ergonomic handle. This will prevent the need for excessive bending or twisting and should make the job significantly easier. Some even come with padded handles for added comfort and control!
Consider using a leaf blower if raking causes you difficulty, as blowing the leaves into a pile takes significantly less energy than raking.
Be sure to perform a 10 minute warm-up before beginning raking, including stretching of knees, hips, arms, and back to prepare for the physical activity.
You may want to take stretching breaks while raking to relax tight muscles, and perform a cool down after physical activity by performing gentle stretching to allow muscles to recover from the increased activity.
Hold the rake close to your body and stagger your feet so you have a good base of support. Use your arms and legs to perform movements and avoid twisting at the waist. An ergonomic rake can make this task significantly easier.
Avoid bending at the waist to get a longer reach.
Changing sides often will also help in maintaining balance on which muscles are worked and will provide some relief to the unused side.
When bagging, lift only loads you are able to safely handle. Keep your back straight and use your legs to do the lifting. Be careful to not overstuff bags to prevent difficulty lifting bags once full.
Perform activity in 20-30 minute increments and take breaks or switch between raking and bagging to alternate activities.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while you’re working- it’s hard work!
Be careful to only perform yard work on dry days: wet grass and leaves are slippery! Wear work boots or other shoes with a good tread to avoid slipping.
If you find any of these movements painful, it's important to stop to prevent injury. Lower back pain is the most common injury from raking, but twisted knees and ankles are up there, too. Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen muscles as well address muscle imbalances that are causing pain. If you or a loved one need physical therapy in Natick or physical therapy in Southborough, call us at 508-650-0060. At FlexPlus Physical Therapy & Balance Centers, we're With You Every Step of the Way.