Tips to Avoid Back Pain During Leaf Clean-Up

Fall in New England is synonymous with beautiful changing leaves, but it also a time for yard work, slippery leaves, and avoiding ticks.

Here are some tips from OrthoConnecticut to protect you during leaf season.

  1. Know where the leaves need to go and use the right tools. Are you bagging, mulching, composting, or preparing leaves for citywide leaf curbside collection? Decide upfront what is best for you based on your physical ability.
  1. Mow regularly. Chopping up deciduous leaves, or mulching, as part of regular mowing is both good for your lawn and back. During the heavy leaf falling period, you might want to mow twice a week.
    • Self-propelled or push mower posture is important. If using a push mower, the best posture for mowing is pushing with your legs and arms to reduce strain on back. A self-propelled mower lets you walk behind the mower as it mainly does the work.
    • Take a break every 15-20 minutes to rest. 
  1. Use the right equipment. Here are some ideas for the right tools.
    • Rakes: be sure your rake is the correct fit, that it is proportional to your height and size to avoid straining posture or muscles, and a padded handle.
    • Leaf blowers: save time and energy by considering lightweight gas or electric leaf blowers to blow leaves either into a pile for bagging or onto a tarp for easier moving. Some leaf blowers rest on your back and ease the need to move the blower from arm to arm.
    • Work gloves: protect your hands from blisters and ticks.
    • Good shoes: protect yourself from wet leaves, slipping, skidding and possibly falling with arch-supportive shoes and anti-slip soles.
    • Tarp: helpful for moving leaves from one spot to another for composting.
  1. Posture for raking and lifting leaves: The National University of Health Sciences recommends:
    • Warm up with stretches first
    • Rake in sections, don’t do a large yard all at once, spread out work over several days. Take breaks every 15-20 minutes.
    • Keep your back straight and avoid repetitive motions by switching arms and pulling in different directions to work out different parts of your body equally.
    • Practice proper lifting. BEND AT YOUR KNEES (not at your waist), feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your abs when lifting, straighten your knees and keep your back straight.
    • For turning, you should avoid twisting at the waist by moving your feet instead.
  1. Avoid ticks. Put pants inside your socks to create a barrier for ticks. Complete a body check following working with leaves and grass.
  1. Drink water … stay hydrated.
  1. Cleaning gutters … ladders, slippery leaves and roofs can add up to big falls. Consider hiring a professional for this task – they’ll have the right equipment and protective gear.

OrthoConnecticut Can Help
Our physicians and physician assistants are available to help you if you’ve strained your muscles or back during Fall Leaf Season. Contact us today for an appointment and #getmovingCT.