Today is the first day of fall. Fall’s arrival means it won’t be long before many of us are outside raking and bagging leaves. However, as with all physical tasks around the house and garden, it is important to take the necessary precautions against accident and injury.
Fall yard work, leaf raking and other outdoor maintenance activities carry numerous risks such as: upper and lower back strain, neck strain and shoulder pain. Just like with sports, if your body isn’t prepared for physical activity, you increase the chances of injury. You can avoid straining yourself by taking simple precautions, such as doing warm ups, doing some post-activity stretches and maintaining good posture throughout.
Athletes are able to reduce the risk of strain and injury by doing warm ups. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends 10-15 minutes of stretching exercises including trunk rotations, side-bends and knee-to-chest pulls. When these are also combined with a short walk (to stimulate circulation), and additional stretches at the end, your body is best prepared to handle the unusual manual labor associated with raking and other fall yard work tasks.
While raking your garden or yard, good posture can also prevent back problems. Make sure to keep your back straight and your head up. Use common sense while working. Tips such as lifting with your legs and bending with your knees, are common knowledge. But, implementing them is the key. You must take care to avoid straining your back while picking up bundles of leaves and grass. If you are likely to carry heavy items, hold them close to your body. Also, in order to take the pressure off your back, rake using the scissors stance. Put your right foot forward and the left one back, then reverse after a few minutes. When using a lawn mower, try to use your body weight to move it as opposed to your arms and back.
It is vitally important to take breaks. Pace yourself, and whenever your body feels tired take a respite. This is particularly important if the weather is hot, and gives you a good opportunity to drink plenty of water. Investing in extra protective gear, such as gloves to prevent blisters, a mask if you’re prone to allergies and protective eyewear, can make life easier while taking on outdoor chores.
Ergonomic tools with extra padding, larger or curved handles are less strenuous to use over a long-time period. Changing tasks regularly helps to prevent repetitive strain injury of certain muscle groups. Change positions, or simply move onto another task for a short period of time before returning to the previous one.
Make plans for your gardening tasks, and to check to be sure they’re realistic and unlikely to cause strain or exhaust you too much. If you’re unaccustomed to physical labor, you may feel sore and/or stiff the next day. In this case, ice will likely soothe the discomfort. However, if there is no improvement in your aches and pains, you may be overdue for a chiropractic checkup.