12 tips for avoiding back pain while raking

The changing color of leaves provide a great backdrop for many fall activities. Unfortunately, at some point they will fall and will need to be cleaned up. Here are 12 tips for reducing back pain while raking:

  • Warm up. Like with any type of physical activity, it is important warm up properly in order to avoid injuries. Take a short walk to loosen up and then do some simple stretches, like toe touches.
  • Rake size. Choosing the right rake will go a long way toward reducing your lower back pain. The length of the rake should be proportionate to your height. A rake that's too long or too short will force you into awkward postures that will increase your back pain. Also, opt for a medium width rake. Wider rakes may make the chore go faster, but the added weight will strain your back more.
  • Posture. When raking, your knees should be bent slightly. Try to keep your back as straight as possible by reaching with your arms rather than bending over to get far away leaves. 
  • Switch hands. Muscles are exhausted through repetitive motions. To avoid this, switch your hands frequently while raking. Unless you're ambidextrous, raking with your off hand may seem awkward, but it will go a long way toward improving your recovery time.
  • Bending. When it comes time to pick up a pile of leaves, bend with your knees, not with your back. The leaves may not seem heavy, but bending in the wrong spot repeatedly will only increase your back pain. Also, make the piles smaller to avoid overloading yourself.
  • Wind. If you're raking on a windy day, let Mother Nature do some of the work for you. Raking in the direction of the wind will help make the job go quicker and reduce the amount of backtracking you may have to do to pick up strays.
  • Tarps. Instead of transporting leaves back and forth repeatedly with a bag or wheelbarrow, cut your time by using a tarp. Rake leaves onto a tarp and then drag it to your desired location. This will cut down your number of trips and the amount of times you have to bend and lift.
  • Water. Staying hydrated is an important part of any physical activity. Drink lots of water while you rake.
  • Shoes. The type of shoe you wear can make a impact in relieving back pain. For this activity, make sure you have shoes with good arch support and skid resistant soles. The arch support will help your back while the sole will help reduce the risk of injury from slipping.
  • Gloves. This doesn't have anything to do with back pain, but wearing gloves is a great general tip for this type of activity. Repeated activity like raking will put a lot of wear and tear on your hands, causing painful blisters. Wearing gloves will keep your hands blister-free.
  • Take breaks. Working continuously may help you finish quicker, but it will greatly increase the risk of back pain. As exhaustion sets in, your movements become sloppy and erratic and your posture becomes awkward, leading to injuries. Every 20 minutes or so, take a break to reset yourself. Doing lighter versions of the stretching done before you started may help during these breaks.
  • Blower. Leaf blowers are a great alternative to raking. They accomplish the same task quicker and more efficiently. If you're considering one, opt for a lightweight one that you can wear on your back to help even out the distribution of weight. If you go with a handheld one, switch hands the same way as you would with a rake.

If you've been suffering from chronic lower back aches and are looking for some relief, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor right away.