Here are some injuries involving the use of common garden tools.
Raking leaves: this is a great all-over workout. It works your neck, shoulders, back, chest, biceps, forearms, legs and yes, your abdominals. It builds your core which stabilizes your body while you move. Raking leaves is a great exercise. It is also great for your lawn. Your house will look maintained and well taken care of, so pick up a rake and welcome those falling leaves!
Here are some suggestions on how to get ready and reduce injuries while raking:
Rake leaves when they are dry. Wet leaves are heavier, slippery and harder to rake. They can also contribute to allergy reactions due to mold and mildew. Remember to choose a rake that is comfortable for your height, strength and grasp.
Scan yard for obstacles. Be aware of holes in the ground, objects such as lawn ornaments, rocks, branches, roots, garden tools, hoses, and buried toys that can make you trip and fall and cause an injury. Look out for insects, snakes and other critters that may have made a home in the leaves.
Start off with some warm-up exercises. Warm up your muscles before starting to work. These exercises can be as simple as walking around the yard, or down the block, doing some circular arm movements, bending forward and backward, bending side to side, or doing some gentle stretches.
Wear layered clothing. As you work up a sweat, your body will become hotter and in order not to get overheated you can just take-off the layers in order to remain comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes with good traction. Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands. Consider wearing a mask if you have allergies.
Maintain a straight posture and correct movement. As you begin to rake, form a wide base at your feet while holding the rake. Be careful not to twist your spine, keep your back naturally aligned. Stand straight and move your entire body opposed to just the upper half. Comfortable shoes will give you support and will elevate some back strain and keep you from slipping and falling.
Switch side of movement frequently. We tend to rake on one side of the body, which increases the risk of injury due to repetitive body movement for prolonged periods of time. To avoid injury, switch sides every 5 to 10 minutes. Rake 10 minutes with your left hand then another 10 minutes with your right hand. This will help reduce strain and stress to one side or to a particular body part and distribute it evenly to both sides of your body. Try to keep leaf piles small so that not to strain your back when gathering.
Bagging leaves tends to involve twisting, bending and stooping and strains the back. Always bend the knees and lift with your leg muscles, never bend the waist. Over-filled bags may become too heavy to lift. Try dragging bags or use a wheelbarrow in long distances, or ask someone for assistance. Smashing leaves into the bag works on your arms. Never throw the bag over your shoulder or to the side, which requires a twisting motion and places unnecessary and harmful stress on your lower back.
An alternative to bagging is using your leaves for composting or using leaves as mulch to cover your garden for the winter, either way you will help enrich the soil by recycling leaves. If you decide to go with the alternative, you will see your lawn and garden grown thicker and greener â no chemicals needed! In nature, nobody rakes leaves; they compost themselves right where they fall.
Take frequent breaks. Do not over do it with yard work. Stop and break every 15 to 20 minutes, drink some water and allow your muscles and your entire body the opportunity to relax. Pace yourself and do yard work in sections over a few days.
Once you are finished do some gentle stretches of go for a 10 minute walk to help relax muscles. Subsequently, take a warm bath or shower which will make your body feel good all over.
Check out our other garden tools injury-related articles:
The above suggestions are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon as instructions for rendering medical help or advice. They are based solely on illustration purposes. Morici, Figlioli & Associates does not make any warranty, expressed or implied for any products or suggestions mentioned, or any techniques or practices described.