Autumn is officially here! We are going to pretend that the next few days in Simcoe County don’t count, seeing as tomorrow it’s supposed to feel like it’s 34 degrees. Aside from that tragedy, we have been experiencing some beautiful fall weather. Refreshing cool air, hot drinks, cozy sweaters, and autumn leaves. The season that many love the most, but never lasts long enough!
Ah yes, the autumn leaves. Their beautiful changes in colour and descent to the ground provide us northerners with the “warm-up” exercise precursor to shoveling snow. We wait until the ground is covered and then we rake them up, bag them, and bring them out to the curb to be collected. Physically it is easier than shoveling snow, but then again, we only have to shovel our driveways, and not our entire yards.
Many people do not realize that raking leaves can cause painful injuries if done improperly. Here are some things for you to consider when you next decide to do some yard work this fall.
A very important tip (which should be done before any physical activity) is to stretch. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says that stretching and stimulating circulation before raking leaves can really help your body limber up and reduce the risk of strain injuries. For instance, taking a stroll around your neighbourhood before you go out and rake will help get your blood pumping and prepare your muscles for raking. In the image below, UPMC illustrates proper posture and best leaf-raking practices:
Massages are also excellent means of loosening up tightness in your muscles and tissues, though stretching is an easy at-home way of preparing your body for exercise.
When shoveling snow, people often get injuries that are caused by lifting heavy loads of snow with improper posture. This can happen when lifting bags of leaves as well, especially if the leaves are damp and heavy.
However, most leaf-raking injuries are caused by twisting motions. According to the Cleveland Clinic, sprains can easily happen with a sudden twist of the body. Sprains are when your ligaments stretch or tear, and they can be extremely painful, can result in spastic muscle contractions and decreased range of motion in the sprained body part. Avoid twisting your body when raking your leaves to help avoid spraining your back, because chances are there will be more leaves to rake next week, and you really won’t want to do that with a sprained ligament.
Knees are another body part that are at risk of twist injuries when raking leaves. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons name meniscus tears as the most common knee injury, and similarly to ligament sprains they are caused by awkward twisting or pivoting of the knee. They state that even an awkward twist when getting up from a chair can be enough to tear a meniscus, especially if it has been worn down with age. Meniscus tears are extremely painful, can cause your knee to catch or lock, or even give way and cause you to fall.
So, when you decide to rake your leaves this autumn, maybe think of taking some extra precautionary measures to ensure that you do not get injured. Stretch, limber up, focus on your posture, and above all, avoid twisting movements.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and enjoy being outside this fall!
Resources and References:
UPMC Tips for Safe Leaf Raking: https://share.upmc.com/2017/10/7-leaf-raking-safety-tips/
Cleveland Clinic Back Strains and Sprains: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10265-back-strains-and-sprains
AAOS Meniscus Tears: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/meniscus-tears/