Dr. Dr. Laurence Laudicina, a spokesperson for the AAOS stated in a new release from the academy that:
“Many people work vigorously in the yard during the autumn season, and it often takes a toll on your body. Raking leaves and cleaning out the gutters are popular seasonal chores that can lead to falls or strain to your back and upper body.”
Last year 617,000 people in America suffered injuries that were sustained as a direct result from incorrectly using rakes, ladders and other outdoor garden supplies, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated.
In an effort to help prevent injuries, the AAOS, along with the Centers for Disease Control, have issued a few tips to help keep you safe whilst performing your Fall chores.
Wait a While
Although this might be frustrating for some, waiting for the full fall to rake leaves is better than doing quick rake jobs here and there. Planning on doing one big rake job, will prevent you from taking any safety shortcuts, that could result in slips, falls, and sore muscles, that you might take when doing small clean ups.
Choosing the Right Rake
Before attempting any outside chore, you should first carefully choose your tools. Although tempting, avoid borrowing a rake from your neighbor, as it may not be the right height or strength for you. When purchasing a rake, make sure to buy a rake that has a padded handle to avoid blisters (or wear gloves instead). Avoid cheap lightweight rakes that made from plastic as the lighter the rake is, the more of your own energy you will use to rake up the leaves. A few garden stores even carry ergonomically designed rakes that are intended to improve on ease of use and comfort and therefore prevent injuries.
It may sound too obvious, but most people do not dress warmly enough before working outside in the cool autumn weather. However, dressing warmly does not mean that you need to wear thick wooly clothes! Rather dress in lightweight layers that will keep you warm without trapping sweat to your body. Make sure that you wear a pair of sturdy gloves that have some grip to them. Also remember to wear a hat and scarf – just make sure that they don’t block your vision. You don’t want to trip over tree stumps or walk into low tree branches. Shoes or boots that are supportive, comfortable and have non-slip soles are the perfect accompaniment! Remember, that if you are allergic to mould or mildew, it is probably a good idea to wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
Doing a pre-rake workout for at least 10 minutes is a great way to avoid straining any muscles. In one hour of raking, you can easily burn at least 300 calories. Therefore, doing a few stretches, side bends and knee lifts will help prevent straining your back, neck and shoulder muscles. The stretches will also help get your blood flowing and mentally prepare yourself for the bending, lifting and raking that you are about to do.
Watch Your Posture
Keep an eye on your posture whilst you are raking up the leaves. Always stand up straight and try to rake the leaves to one side of your body, allowing your hands to alternate. Remember to always bend from your knees whenever you attempt to pick up piles of raked leaves, and never throw the leaves over your shoulders as this twisting motion can cause back injuries. Rather simply step to the side so that your entire body moves and not only your back and shoulders. Another tip is to not overfill the leaf bags, especially if the leaves are slightly damp. The bags should always be light enough for you to carry comfortably.
Take A Break
Take a 10 to 15 minute break from raking at regular intervals. The repetitive motions of raking the leaves up can become laborious after a bit. During your break you should do a few stretches to release any tension in your back and shoulders. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated by sipping on water.
Before using a ladder you will need to inspect it very carefully for any loose hinges, rungs or screws and to make sure that it is clean, especially if you have not used it for a while. Always place the ladder on firm level ground and check to see that it is fully open and locked before climbing and never sit or stand on the very top rung or pail shelf.
Photo Credit: Dan4th