As autumn has arrived, the leaves fall gracefully… upon our front lawns! Many of us get injured while raking leaves or just cleaning out all our summer supplies. Here are a few tips to prepare ourselves for this “fall”.
- Limber up. Before you shock your muscles with sudden exertion and cold weather, go for a brisk 15 minute walk around the block or on the treadmill to get circulation pumping through your muscles. This will decrease the chances of strains, cramps and reduce muscle soreness.
- After warming up the muscles, stretch your muscles! Ask your practitioner for stretches specific to your activity and individual to areas of muscle tightness for you. Stretching is recommended after warm up and after activity.
- Bundle up. In the fall, the wind is strong. According to Dr. Janet G. Travell, cold drafts are one of the many triggers for myofascial trigger points or “knots”. Therefore, scarves would be very useful to prevent yourself from getting stiff necks or headaches.
- Biomechanics [part I]. When raking leaves or similar activities such as vacuuming, there are some ways to prevent “throwing out” your back. Firstly, you should use your whole body, not just your arms or just your back. Engage your core and bring the power from your legs. With both legs shoulders width and a half apart and back upright, have your dominant hand at the top of the rake at eye level and other hand around waist level on the rake. In a side lunging motion (if you are right-handed) transfer your weight from your left leg to your right while using the momentum from your legs to bring the rake across the ground.
- Proper lifting. Bend at your knees & not with your back!
When lifting, go down for a squat while keeping the back upright and push upward with your legs to lift. Be sure to keep your neck upright as well. You can apply this to your fall cleanup as well as your daily laundry baskets.
Travell, J., Simons, D., & Simons, L. (1999). Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: Upper half of body (Vol. 1). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.