Autumn arrives in just a few short days, but already the leaves are changing to their beautiful reds, oranges and yellows. Here in New England we are fortunate to have some of the best scenery foliage around, however that beauty soon turns into a lot of yard work when all those leaves fall to the ground.
One option to avoiding injury from performing strenuous yard work (other than the tips below) is to hire a professional. They often have the proper tools and extra hands on deck to do the job safely and efficiently.
If hiring a professional is not an option, here’s how you can avoid neck and back pain while keeping your lawn looking fabulous.
1. Warm up before you begin.
We warm up before we workout (or at least we should be), so why don’t we do it before yard work? Yard work is a full body workout requiring our muscles to be ready to work and loosened up. Simply preparing your body to move is a great way to avoid injury. I recommend a dynamic warm up beforehand (save the static stretching for after!).
2. Lift with your legs.
I know how tempting it is to just bend forward from the waist and pick up that massive pile of leaves, but your body will thank you if you take the extra time to squat down and use your legs to lift. Keep the load close to your body to decrease the stress on your back and neck.
3. Turn and pivot.
How many of you have seen the Friends episode where they are moving the couch and Ross is repeating “Pivot!”. Now, first of all, do NOT follow their lifting technique that was used in the show, but do remember the word pivot. Once you have lifted with your legs to get that pile of leaves off the ground, turn with your whole body to face the bag/can you are place leaves in. Your back will thank you later for not putting that stress on it from lifting and twisting!
4. Rake the leaves when they are dry.
Through the years I’ve heard various input on whether it is better to rake leaves when they are wet or dry. While there are arguments in support of both, when it comes to keeping your back happy, raking when dry will decrease the strain on your muscles. Wet leaves are heavier, making it tougher to pick them up from your yard.
5. Stretch after you are done.
While it is tempting to go plop down on the couch to watch football in relief after finishing your yard work, give your muscles some relief with gentle stretching. For an individualized stretching regime, contact me to set up your free 15-minute consult.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy autumn!
-Sarah Herschberger, PT, DPT
Sarah is the owner of Resilient Physical Therapy and Wellness in Needham, MA.
Disclaimer: In accessing this article and its contents you, the reader, understand all information is for educational and marketing purposes and should not replace professional medical advice. You, the reader, take full responsibility for your actions in implementing any of the techniques or advice disseminated within this article.