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Fall Colours – On the Ground!

With winter in the air, and the white stuff getting ready to dump on the lawn, it's about time to get the yard cleaned up! And that means everyone's "favourite" task: raking leaves!

It's one of those 'have-to-do' things in terms of yard cleanup before the winter, and it can even be an enjoyable task: the beautiful fall colours, the crisp cool air and a little healthy exercise. However, as with any physical activity, potential injury awaits if you aren't ready.

How many times has it happened to you? You go out for the 'big rake', and get the yard tidied up.  You even get the bags to the curb for your regular yard waste pickup! But the next day... AGONY!

It's true that in 2012 over 38,000 Americans reported injuries from raking their fall leaves!  As with many yard maintenance activities, a fair amount of physical labour is involved, but these activities are done once or twice a season, so of course you are not necessarily conditioned to the physical exertion. To your body, these increases in physical work seem sudden, however if you follow a few simple guidelines, injury CAN be prevented.

Here are some tips to keep your yard clean, and your body injury-free:

  1. WAIT FOR THE 'BIG' FALL - Aside from a few touch-ups here and there, or perhaps some minor path clearing, it's best to wait for the big job. Smaller clean-ups may tempt you to cut corners in terms of safety, thus putting yourself at higher risk of slips, trips and falls or pulled muscles.
  2. WARM UP - As with any physical activity, warming up your muscles and getting the blood flowing will help to avoid shocking your body, and prepare your muscles for the task ahead.
  3. DRESS APPROPRIATELY - You will be outside in the cold, but as you are working, you will work up a sweat. Dress in layers so that you can adjust as necessary to avoid overheating or getting chilled by being too sweaty.
  4. USE PROPER EQUIPMENT - Select a rake that is the appropriate size for you. This will help you to stand up straighter and avoid bending at the waist while raking. You should also wear gloves to avoid blisters. Wearing boots with slip-resistant soles is a good idea too, especially if it's damp out.
  5. USE PROPER TECHNIQUE - Keep your knees slightly bent, with one foot in front of the other and your shoulders back (good posture). While raking, you shouldn't twist your back, but instead turn your whole body.  And keep your strokes short to avoid over-extension injuries. Once your bags are loaded up, remember to bend at the knees, keep your back straight and lift with your legs, keeping the bag in close to your body.
  6. DON'T OVER DO IT - It's better to use a few more bags and avoid overloading them. Overfilling your bags can lead to injury if they are too heavy. Not just for yourself, but also for your yard waste collector! Remember that though they are just leaves, if they are damp, they can get heavy before you know it.
  7. PACE YOURSELF - Though it's a big job, it is not a race. Take breaks as needed and keep yourself hydrated.  When working in the cool autumn air, you might not notice how much you are sweating, so you will probably need more water than you think.

Keep these things in mind this fall when cleaning up your yard, and you'll stay in good health.  Of course, if you do wind up with a few sore muscles after clearing your yard, your massage therapist is only a phone call away!

References:

1- https://www.sheppardchiro.com/leaves-leaves-leaves-safety-raking-tips-for-fall/

2- http://newsroom.aaos.org/media-resources/news/rake-safely-tips-for-an-injury-free-fall-cleanup.tekprint

3- http://3riversortho.com/2016/10/14/5-ways-prevent-injuries-raking-leaves-fall/

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