Don’t Let Fall Cleanup Lead to Lower Back Pain

Fall is a perennial favorite time of year. The leaves change color and people pull out their flannel and sweaters, preparing for cozy evenings at home. As is true of so many other things, the beauty of the foliage is unfortunately short-lived, leaving behind a big cleanup job. If you are responsible for raking and bagging, you want to take care to protect your lower back. Do it the right way and you can reward yourself for a job well done and a good night’s sleep. Do it the wrong way and you’re likely to find yourself with aches, pains, and possibly even lower back injuries.

Fall clean-up is more than just raking leaves. It is picking up the branches that the wind has blown down, bagging up the piles of debris and dragging those heavy bags or wastebins to the curb for pickup. It is exhausting work, and all too easy to hurt your middle and lower back while you’re doing it. Here are important tips to help you avoid regretting your efforts.

  • Make sure that your rake is the right size. You may not be aware that rakes come in different heights, but they do. You want to choose a rake that is at least the same height as your shoulder, as a shorter rake makes you bend over and forward more, adding to the risk of strain and overuse of muscles that you rarely use.
  • When you’re raking, use short strokes. There is no reason to reach your arms out all the way – in fact, doing so is a waste of energy, and can leave you with aching shoulders. When you’re raking, don’t stand with your feet fixed in one place. Move your feet back and forth with your efforts to minimize any unnecessary twisting and bending.
  • How many times have you been told to lift with your legs? It’s true when you’re raking too. Position the bag or bin that you’re going to put the yard waste into directly in front of you, then bend your knees and push your hips backwards. Do not bend with your back. Instead, use your powerful leg muscles to push up while you’re holding the leaves in your arms, close to your body. By keeping the bag in front of you, you minimize the twisting that all too often results in muscle aches.
  • Don’t try to be a hero. There is no reason to finish the entire job in one shot. Take breaks, break the job up into small intervals of 15 or 20 minutes long. Stretch and bend between each period of work and make sure that you are drinking plenty of water.

If you overdo your yard cleanup and find yourself in pain, there is no need to panic. In most cases, the aches and pains that follow a yard cleanup go away in a day or two. Take a hot shower, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for a few days and see if you feel better. If not, call our office and make an appointment to come in and see how we can help.

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