Take Care When Raking Leaves

You already know raking leaves is a pain in the neck. But fall’s most taxing task is also a pain in the back—and therein lies the danger.

Raking and disposing of leaves is more than a chore. It’s a vigorous aerobic workout. Although exercise is good for you, this workout is full of demanding repetitive motions.

While it may seem simple, it can be physically stressful, even for healthy individuals. And if you have a history of problems related to the heart, lungs, bones, joints, or spine, you should seek advice from a health care provider before you start.

All the bending, reaching, twisting, lifting, and carrying can easily lead to painful musculoskeletal injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, herniated discs in the neck or low back are particularly common. So are muscle strains of the back, arms, and legs—especially for those who aren’t used to regular exercise or demanding physical activity.

If you’re concerned, the best answer to the question “What’s the best way to rake leaves?” might be “Get someone else to do it.” But if you must do it yourself, how do you get relief from the pain?

Most raking injuries are related to poor technique or overdoing it. So take these steps:

  • Wear sturdy, slip-resistant shoes.

  • Stand up straight as you rake.

  • Bend from your knees.

  • Switch your arm and leg positions, trading sides every few minutes.

  • Be careful on slippery, wet leaves.

  • Lift only as much as you can comfortably carry.

  • Don’t wrench or twist too severely.

  • Take your time.

  • Break your work into short segments with breaks between.

  • Cool down when you’re done by stretching for 10 minutes.

And be sure that the rake you choose is in good repair and can be used comfortably and efficiently.