For some, fall is the best time of the year, filling your town with the brightest colors. For others, all we see is our least favorite chore. Either way, we don’t blame you.Believe it or not, over 76,000 people are injured every year from raking leaves or using other manual gardening tools. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be you this year. Let’s talk about how to protect your back when you’re raking leaves this season.

How Raking Leaves Hurts Your Back

Before we know how to prevent the pain, it’s important to know just what’s causing it in the first place. For some people, raking leaves could lead to mild discomfort in the lower back, burning pain in the middle, or even an injury.Regardless of what kind of pain or discomfort you’re experiencing, your back is a very important part of your body to protect. You know what the human skeleton looks like. Between your hips and your ribs, there’s just one thin line of vertebrae.Beyond your spine, it’s simply your core muscles supporting you in your abdomen. This is one of the biggest weak points in human anatomy, and it’s why 80% of adults experience back pain at some point.The reason that raking leaves are such a common cause of back pain is because of the motion, lack of balance, and repetition. If you are twisting your upper body repeatedly for over an hour, performing the same motion every time, that puts a lot of stress on your spine and/or the muscles around it. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent that.

How To Keep Your Back Safe When Raking Leaves

Whether it’s your spine or musculature that’s causing your discomfort, there are still some uniform best practices to follow when you’re raking. Here’s how you can prevent spine pain this fall.

Switch Sides

We mentioned “lack of balance” as a key contributor to back pain. We were not trying to imply that you couldn’t ride a skateboard like a pro. What we were saying is that you likely have a dominant hand and you hold the rake in one position because of it.Well, when you’re constantly pulling on one side, it creates an imbalance, which can lead to back pain. It’s a good idea to switch your lead arm and leg with the rake periodically as if you were doing alternating sets at the gym. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it quickly.

Use Proper Form

Again, imagine you’re at the gym. Focus on your posture and keep your core rather tight. Be mindful to not repeatedly twist your upper body while you are raking.If you keep your core tightened and your back up straight, this will only allow you the option to pull the rake with your arms. You should be using a rowing motion instead of a twisting motion. Plant your feet flat on the ground, bend your knees slightly, position the rake past the leaves you are trying to rake and pull the rake back toward you with your arms, holding the position you started in.This will put the majority of the strain on your latissimus dorsi, which is better prepared for this repetitive motion than your spinal erectors.The same thing goes for when you are lifting the bags or bins that are holding your leaves. If you have woods attached to your yard, you can just grab a wheelbarrow and bring the leaves down there. However, if you’re using bags, be mindful of how you lift them.Keep your back straight and let your legs do the hard work and always use proper lifting form. If you feel more comfortable wearing a brace or asking for help during this part, you should do so.

Take Your Time

We understand if raking isn’t your thing but pacing yourself can really save your back. Fast jerking motions are what will be most likely to cause an actual injury, so take your time and try to enjoy the fall.You can also try to get your raking done in waves throughout the fall. If you work on it once every week, or once every few days even, you will be able to make quick work of it and spread the load throughout the season.If you’re feeling the need to rush and you’re just trying to get it done as quickly as possible, take a breath and remember two things: your back is more important than an extra ten minutes, and at least you aren’t shoveling snow!

See A Specialist

If you feel pain or serious discomfort every time you rake or shovel, you could benefit from getting your spine checked out. Your spine is something worth protecting, so seeing a spine care specialist as a preventative measure might save you a lot of pain or discomfort in the future. If you’re young, this is especially true. You have a lot more life to live, so live it with your back in good health.

Stay Safe!

Now that you know how to protect your back when raking leaves, it’s best to put these tips into practice when the leaves start falling soon. Remember, taking the time to get it done in increments will save you the trouble of one big day of raking! Either way, take good care of yourself, protect your spine, and be sure to contact us with any questions!