Autumn is a beautiful time of year. In many locations, the season means watching greenery turn to vibrant reds and golds. If only colorful leafs would stay put instead of falling to the ground. For most people living in homes with tree-filled yards, raking may be a necessity... but it sure is not fun. Raking is a chore that can quickly become tiring, monotonous, and even painful. If not done with care and caution, raking can easily cause injuries.
You might be surprised by the high number of raking-related injuries that arrive in Emergency Rooms. Why so many? Raking is an activity that demands a lot from the body. It requires plenty of exertion and uses almost every muscle group. Think about it… When you rake, you are constantly reaching, twisting, bending, lifting, etc. As we age, raking can take an even greater toll on our bodies.
It is almost impossible to escape at least a few uncomfortable aches and pains after raking, but there are precautions we can take to avoid straining or injuring our muscles, shoulders, backs, wrists, and other areas.
Get your doctor’s okay. It is always a good idea to ask for your doctor’s recommendations when about to tackle any physical activity that is not part of your normal daily routine. Raking definitely falls into the category since it is something that requires physical stamina and is not done on a regular basis. Your doctor may have some helpful raking tips to share with you.
Don’t rake like a robot. Repeating the same movements again and again is bound to cause discomfort and strain. Try moving different ways as you rake so you won’t keep using the same muscle groups. Every now and then, switch the side of your body you are using as you rake.
Start out with a plan. Don’t begin raking every which way with no rhyme nor reason. You’ll accomplish much more if you are organized in your approach. Some people like to start at a corner of the space to be cleared and rake directly across towards the opposite corner, raking leaves into a diagonal line in the middle of the space. Then they rake inward from each end of the row to form a pile in the center. Before raking, make sure to clear away any debris in the area that may get in your way while raking and become a potential danger.
Protect your hands with gloves. There are some great gardening gloves on the market that provide plenty of protection for hands, fingers, and wrists. They help prevent blisters from long hours of raking as well as injuries from twigs and other items that may end up in your leaf pile or need to be moved.
Be careful bending and lifting. Never try to lift anything you are not absolutely sure you can pick up safely and comfortably. When picking up leaves or other items, always bend at the knees rather than from the waist and keep your back as straight as possible.
Always warm up before using your rake. Give yourself a few minutes to stretch out your muscles before you start raking. A little light stretching and exercise should loosen you up and prepare your body for the task.
Think about foot placement to avoid twisting. A lot of us stand with our feet firmly planted in one spot and swivel our bodies in different directions as we rake. Many people find that putting one foot a bit ahead of the other makes it is easier to shift body weight comfortably and safely while raking.
Wear shoes that are appropriate for raking. Sturdy, comfortable shoes with skid-resistant soles are best for the job, because they can help keep you from slipping and/or falling.
Get the right rake. Rakes are not carbon copies of each other. They come in different styles and sizes. There are ergonomic models designed specifically to help reduce back and arm strain. Find a lightweight rake in a size that feels right to you and is comfortable to use. Look for one with padded cushion grips on the handle to reduce strain on your wrists and hands.