Healthy Lifestyle

Don't let raking leaves lead to injury

Gloved hands place leaves in a bag

By Steven Paulus, PT, Nuvance Health Physical Therapy


Leaf-dropping trees will soon take control of the lush green lawns of Hudson Valley homes. While frolicking in a big pile of freshly raked leaves can bring delight, clearing the grass of them can be a pain. If not done right, raking leaves and hoisting them into bags can be dangerous to just about anyone.

When you rake, you could potentially use harmful body movements, such as strenuous twisting or bending, that might cause a sprain or strain to the back, neck, shoulder or wrist. Here are some strategies on for how to tackle this fall chore without an injury:

Proper equipment is key

Pick the right tool. Use a properly sized rake for your height and strength. Select one that has a handle with gripping material. Ergonomic rakes, with a bent handle, can eliminate bending and stooping. If your go-to tool is made of rusty metal, it’s time for an upgrade.

Warm up. A short walk followed by gentle stretching should do it. Pay attention to your neck, shoulders and back, which are most at risk of an injury. This will help your body come awake in preparation for the work ahead.

Posture is everything. Stand upright and rake leaves to the side of you. Avoid twisting your body. Use your legs to shift your weight, and your arms and legs to push and pull the rake. Bend at the knees, not your waist, when you stoop to pick up a leaf pile, and keep your back straight, not hunched. Vary your movements as much as you can to avoid overuse of muscle groups.

Lightweight clothes, supportive shoes

Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight clothing that keeps you warm without trapping in sweat. Wear supportive, comfortable shoes with skid- resistant soles. Remember, wet leaves can be slippery.

Don’t overdo it. Take breaks when you feel out of breath or fatigued. Drink plenty of fluids.

Rake smart

Work smart. Rake with the wind, not against it, and rake work downhill, if you can.

Cool down. When you’re done, gentle stretching and a hot shower can help relieve tension in the muscles.

After raking, perform a thorough check of your skin and clothes for ticks. These insects tend to dwell in cool, shady environments like leaf piles, and they carry several transmissible illnesses, such as Lyme disease.

Steven Paulus recently joined the Nuvance Health’s staff of physical therapists and sees patients in Hyde Park. You can learn more about physical therapy services here or request a physical therapy appointment here.