The changes in color and scenery make fall a beautiful time of year here in Western PA. But with that change comes the falling of leaves and the potential for shoulder, back, and ankle injuries to occur.

So, to help you enjoy this unavoidable autumn activity, here are five ways to take care of yourself and prevent injuries before they strike and ruin your fall:

  1. Warm Up – it's important to warm up your muscles with some light exercise and dynamic stretching before beginning any activity. Raking leaves is no exception. Some easy warm ups include walking, jogging, performing jumping jacks, or marching in place. Start off easy and continue for 5-10 minutes. This will get your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your muscles loosened up and ready for any activity.
  2. Use Proper Equipment – it's smart to use the proper equipment and avoid unnecessary injuries. For example, wearing gloves can help you prevent your hands from getting irritated and forming blisters. Wearing non-slip shoes can help you avoid nasty falls and ankle sprains on wet leaves. An ergonomic rake can save your back from straining and your shoulders from rolling forward.
  3. Practice Good Technique – there are several things to keep in mind when it comes to technique. First, posture: keep your knees bent, your back straight, and your shoulders back. Second, stance: keep one leg in front of the other leg, shoulder-width apart. Third, form: bend your legs and not your back when lifting bags, tarps, etc., and twist your body from your hips when raking and walking backwards.
  4. Pace Yourself – yard work is an aerobic activity, so treat it as such. Take breaks every 20-30 minutes. Stay hydrated to keep your muscles from cramping and working efficiently. Lightly stretch your forearms, shoulders, back, hips, legs, and calves before starting back up. Switch your hands and feet position every few minutes while raking to save your body from overuse on one side.
  5. Make Smart Decisions – sometimes you can get the same results without the same actions. For example, if raking leaves is hard on your back, then consider hiring a neighbor or professional to do the work for you. If you cannot afford to hire someone, then consider mowing your leaves instead of raking them. Done correctly, your lawn and your body will love you for it. If you use bags to transport leaves, consider using a tarp instead to save your back and shoulders. If you do not have a tarp, consider filling your bags up only 3/4 of the way instead all the way to lessen the load on your joints.

Following these five tips can help you prevent injury and stay safe during this autumn activity. But sometimes injuries can occur despite your best efforts. So, if you experience any slips or falls, strains or sprains, loss of motion or weakness, please know that the physicians at Three Rivers Orthopedic Associates are here to help.

Our highly trained doctors love taking care of patients in need and will help you get back to normal as fast as possible!