Who doesn’t love fall!? A cup of hot chocolate never tasted better, the leaves are beautiful colors, homes are cozy; holidays and precious time with friends and loved ones ensue.

However, autumn and winter does come with some challenges. And I’m not just referring to the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping! Truth is there are many tasks we must accomplish outside of our daily work routine during this season… such as yard work like shoveling snow and raking leaves!

First, let me give you some good news. Yard work such as racking leaves and shoveling snow count as moderate exercise! Now some not so good news: it is actually very easy to injure yourself if you are using improper techniques. The colder weather already puts you at risk for muscle pain- muscles constrict in cold weather and are more prone to cramps and strain. Add to that all of the twisting, turning, bending, pulling, pushing, and reaching of raking and shoveling. And since these are seasonal activities, you are probably using muscles that are rarely used. All of these factors can contribute to injury. Common injuries include upper and/or lower back strain, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

Tis the season to have back pain! So here are some tips to prevent injury when racking leaves, shoveling snow, and other yard work:

General Tips:

  • Do stretching exercises before and throughout the course of your yard work
  • Stand as straight as possible
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist, when you pick up things
  • Look into purchasing ergonomic tools. An ergonomic tool is one that has been engineered in such a way that it helps protect you from injury
  • Avoid repetitive twisting and turning
  • Take breaks. This will allow your muscles rest and will minimize strain.

Racking Tips:

  • When racking leaves, use a “scissors stance.” Right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes, then switch
  • Hold rake handle close to your body and stand up straight
  • Change sides frequently to avoiding overusing one side of your body, but avoid twisting when you pass the rake from one side to the other
  • When leaves are under the rake, pull them straight back towards your body

Shoveling Tips:

  • Push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to throw it into the snow bank
  • Lifting snow should be done with your knees
  • Lift small loads of snow, and shovel more often as opposed to trying to get one large task done all at once
  • Work slowly

Basically, you want to always be aware of your body’s position. Try to keep the spine straight and focus on bending at the knees. Also, it’s a good idea to do some back extensions when done. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your hips. Slowly arch backwards until you can’t stretch any further, hold for a few seconds and return to a full upright position. Do this several times. In fact, try it now! Feels great, huh?

If you feel sore after doing yard work, apply an ice bag on the affected area for 15-20 minutes. You can do this a few times a day over the next 1-3 days.

If you still feel sore after following these tips, it is probably time to visit your chiropractor.

Remember, if your body is not in proper condition, just about anything can cause strain or injury. So it’s very important to create a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, healthy food, and plenty of rest.

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