Avoid Injuries: Fall Cleanup Edition

Living in Maine, we have the luxury of witnessing the beauty of autumn. Our skylines fill with vibrant colors as the leaves change, preparing for winter. It’s a sight that attracts thousands to our state each year. What these visitors don’t see is the arduous process of fall cleanup that ensues once all the trees have shed their leaves.

All too often, our orthopedic teams see patients who have suffered an injury from misuse of a rake and/or not bagging and hauling bags ergonomically. That’s why, Ryan Brown, physical therapist at Spectrum Orthopaedics, has put together the below tips:

Tips for safe raking:

  • Use the right rake for the job.  The handle should be chin height and your hands should be able to hold the rake 18″ to 24″ apart. If the rake is too short you can hurt your back, If it’s too heavy, you can strain your shoulders and/or neck.
  • Hold the rake handle closer to your body. This will help you maintain a more upright posture while raking and reduce stressors to the spine.
  • Keep one hand near the top of the rake with the other hand placed low enough on the rake that the elbow would be at a 30-50 degree bend. This helps create better leverage. Ergonomic rakes often have padded handles to reduce strain on the hands and wrists, with special handles that encourage good posture by ensuring that the elbows are bent slightly.
  • Rake to the side. This helps keep the back straight.
  • Bend at the knees with one foot ahead of the other. Avoid bending at your back.
  • Don’t twist. It’s better to move the legs and pivot the body by shifting your weight instead of planting your feet in a fixed position and raking in several directions from that position.  This will make you tired but will assist in reducing stressors to your spine.
  • Make short strokes. Try not to overextend your muscles or spine.
  • Change sides and alternate hands frequently.  This helps balance the work load on your body.
  • Pace yourself and take breaks.

Tips for safe bagging/disposing of the leaves:

  • Be careful not to overstuff the bags. Remember wet leaves weigh more, so pack fewer leaves in the bags when they’re wet.
  • When moving the bags, make sure to lift with the legs. – Bend the knees and keep your back straight and stomach tight.
  •  If a bag is large and awkward to lift, walk backwards pulling the bag.  Using a handcart or dolly to move it also works well.

Remembering these tips will help prevent injury to your muscles or spine. In the event that you do feel you’ve overworked or strained, we can help! You can visit OrthoAccess, our orthopedic walk-in clinic or contact us to make an appointment.

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