Eight Tips for Raking Right

Kyle Silva, DO

Autumn in New England is a beautiful time of year. Brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow reveal themselves as the leaves change color. Hot apple cider helps to keep us warm on chilly autumn nights. We curl up by a fire with a good book. Fall can be simply splendid!

It’s also a perfect time to get outdoors. Fall offers countless activities to enjoy, including everything from hiking to pumpkin picking. Love it or hate it, raking leaves is another opportunity for outdoor aerobic exercise.

Unfortunately, the dynamics of raking can cause a variety of injuries, including those to the back, shoulders, and wrists. In 2006, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that over 12,000 people were treated by medical professionals for injuries sustained from raking leaves.

Here are eight useful tips to minimize your risk of injury:

  1. Choose an appropriately sized rake for your height and strength.
  2. Use a rake with a padded handle or wear gloves to avoid blisters.
  3. Rake leaves when they’re dry. Wet leaves are heavier and more difficult to lift. They also breed mold and mildew, which can be unpleasant for those who suffer from allergies.
  4. Loosen up beforehand! Stretching for 10 minutes before raking helps to warm up muscles, which minimizes your risk of injury. Repeat for another 10 minutes afterward to help rid muscles of lactic acid, which can lead to soreness.
  5. Lift properly. Make sure to bend at the knees instead of the waist. Keep leaf piles small to avoid straining your back while lifting.
  6. Vary your movements often to avoid overusing individual muscle groups.
  7. Keep hydrated throughout. Dehydration can occur with any strenuous activity. It’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration, which can include headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, increased thirst, and decreased urine output.
  8. Don't overdo it! Raking is a strenuous, aerobic exercise. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.

For persistent or worsening pain, contact the Comprehensive Spine Center at Newport Hospital. 

Turn over a new leaf in your approach to raking! Taking the proper precautions when raking, or taking part in any outdoor activity, will allow you and your family to enjoy the crisp autumn weather safely.

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