It’s that time of year again when the leaves start to fall off the trees and you spend your weekends raking the leaves in your yard. Too many times we find patients coming to our clinic with strains to their backs, shoulders and wrists. How can this be prevented?
Raking and sweeping motions use similar motions, by causing the body to twist at the low back, while the legs stay planted in the same place. Also, when you rake and bend forward repeatedly, this causes a strain to the muscles in your mid and lower back. The combination of poor body mechanics combined with weak abdominal and back muscles can result in low back pain.
Here are some Healthy Tips for Raking Safely:
Try putting on your favorite music and dance for 3 minutes. March or jog in place for a few minutes
These are 3 stretches that target the trunk, legs and upper body:
(1) Counter-Top stretch: Place your hands on your kitchen counter and walk backwards until your body makes an L-shape. Bend or hinge forward from your hips, while keeping your back lengthened your arms forward. You will feel a stretch in your back and throughout your trunk. Hold this for 10 long, deep breaths.
(2) Heel Up On a Chair stretch: While holding onto some support, straighten your leg out and place your heel up on a chair, tighten that thigh, and pull those toes towards your body. Feel the stretch in the back of your leg. There’s no need to bend forward and it’s better if you don’t. Just stand up tall and keep both legs active. Hold 10 breaths. Repeat other side.
(3) Bent Knee with Ankle in Hand stretch: Keep holding onto some support as you grab one foot with one hand behind your rear end and hold it as you bend that leg. You should feel this stretch in the front of the thigh of the bent leg as you hold for 10 breaths. Repeat other side.
C. Core Strengthening Exercise:
While standing, imagine pulling your belly button in towards your spine and engage your abdominal muscles without letting your pelvis tuck under. Try holding this for 5-10 seconds while breathing normally and repeat this a few times until it makes sense. This exercise uses the innermost layer of abdominal and back muscles and reminds your body where the center of your core strength is.
As you are raking leaves, focus on the rotating movements happening in your hip joints. You can place your finger on the front of your hip joints (located at the top of each thigh near the groin) and practice a few sways side to side, simulating raking. Avoid letting the rotation happen at your waist—this will cause unnecessary movement around your lumbar spine. Also, continue to focus on the core strength exercise above and engage your belly button in towards your spine as you rake, activating those lumbar spine stabilizers.
With the focus on your core and some attention to loosening up any stiffness in your legs and trunk muscles, you’ll go a long way to preventing injury to your back and being able to enjoy your weekend despite the added task of raking leaves.
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If you suffer from chronic neck or low back pain, it’s always a good idea to get some exercise advice and education from a physical therapist. For more information on this topic please feel free to comment on this blog or contact us at www.ptrehab.com.
An evaluation of the individual is performed and based on all this information, treatment and corrective measures are tailored to the individual. Most insurance plans are accepted or contact us for a free 15 minute consultation.
Physical Therapy at Briarcliff, 584 North State Road, Briarcliff Manor, New York 10510 (914) 762-2222 or Physical Therapy at Jefferson Valley, Jefferson Valley, New York 10535 (914) 245-8807. www.ptrehab.com