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Posted on 10-09-2012
I’m sure you all have noticed with these last few cold mornings that Fall is officially here in Monroeville and Penn Hills. Along with Fall favorites such as Pumpkin Spice coffee, Pumpkin rolls, Pumpkin Pie etc. is the dreaded task here in Pittsburgh of having to rake leaves.
We’re getting close to peak leaf time here in Monroeville and a quick look at our yards and we can see leaves that have fallen.
Here’s the challenge though, I see it all the time in my Penn Hills Chiropractor office, patients hurt their backs quite often raking and bagging leaves. Quite simply, this doesn’t have to be you. A few simple steps and you can greatly lessen your chances of being hurt doing this task.
--- Stretch. Leaf raking is a form of exercise, so treat it that way. What do we all do typically before we exercise? We stretch. Raking leaves should be no different. You should make sure that your muscles are ready for the work out. You should think especially about stretching the muscles that support the low back and of course, any muscle involved in the actual raking (for example, your arms and shoulders). Just take 5 minutes and get your body ready.
--- Posture. Staying hunched over while raking is simply not good for your back. That posture places extra strain on your low back. Your low back naturally curves inward. Poor raking posture rounds your low back more than it's used to, potentially leading to pain. So first of all, try to bend as much at the knees as you can. This lessens how much you have to bend at the waist. Generally speaking though, and this sounds bad, but if you stick your butt out when you bend at the waist, it'll help to keep more of a normal curve in your low back instead of the hunching. Lastly, don't stay hunched for too long. Raking leaves isn't a speed contest. Take breaks, stand up straight, and walk around. Don't just stay hunched over for hours on end.
--- Twisting. Don't ever, ever, twist at your low back while holding heavy weight, i.e. leaves. This is a big contributor to low back pain. The solution is quite simple, keep the heavy load directly in front of you, take 2 steps with your feet and turn your entire body. Don't keep your feet stationary and twist. This takes all of 2 seconds to do, but it will save your back.
In the end, just pay attention to what you do. Think about doing these good habits, make it a conscious effort, and then it simply becomes habit that you don't have to think about and you will be left with proper technique to save your back. Take your time and don't hurt yourself.
- Dr. Brent Shealer -- Pittsburgh, Monroeville, Penn Hills Chiropractor
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