6 Tips to Prevent Injury While Raking Leaves

October 26, 2023 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team
Raking Leaves in Fall

Autumn is a much-anticipated season of change. While we happily welcome warm drinks, cozy blankets and gatherings around the firepit, we’re not quite as enthusiastic about the abundance of fallen leaves and hours of subsequent yard work.

Before you get outside to rake the leaves this Fall, take a moment to review and put into practice our raking injury prevention tips.

6 Tips to Prevent Injury: Raking Leaves

1.Warm up your muscles before raking. Go for a brisk walk around your yard to get your circulation pumping to warm up your muscles. Stretch before you begin raking. By doing so, you decrease your chance of straining, cramping, or muscle soreness.

2. Bundle up and dress for movement. The clothing worn for leaf raking might not seem like it matters, but it plays a large role in preventing injuries Wearing warm, loose, breathable layers that you can move freely in help maintain body temperature. Comfortable shoes with adequate arch support and non-skid soles provide the support needed for the length of time most people are on their feet while raking. Proper footwear can help to reduce strain on the back and can prevent you from slipping on wet leaves. Gardening gloves with nonstick palms can help prevent blisters and save hands from jagged twigs and thorns. And remember to use sunscreen.

3. Ensure your raking tools are ergonomic. Many people do not realize it, but it is possible to injure yourself by using a rake that is the wrong size. A rake that is too long or too short will place unnecessary strain on the back, arms, and torso. Using a rake that is larger than normal may seem like an easy way to gather more leaves. But it can cause unnecessary straining and reaching. The rake should be a comfortable length when moving up and down. Using a lightweight, ergonomic rake can ensure that your elbows are slightly bent and help you maintain good posture while raking. Rakes that have padded or adjustable handles can reduce stress on your hands and back.

4. Work in increments. Break up your yard work and raking into multiple smaller increments to avoid prolonged repetitive stress on your body. Some people want to power through and get the raking done as quickly as possible. Taking short breaks to catch your breath, drink some water, stretch your muscles again, and admire your progress is more beneficial. A good rule of thumb is to take a 10- to 15-minute break for each hour of strenuous activity. Your body will thank you!

5. Use proper form when raking. When raking, use your whole body, not just the arms or back. Place your dominant hand at the top of the rake at eye level and place the other hand at waist level on the rake. Use a scissors stance, standing with the right foot forward, left foot back and switch periodically. Pull the rake in with the power of moving your legs, not by bending or twisting your back. When doing a side lunge while raking, transfer your weight from your left to right leg while using the momentum from your legs to bring the rake across the ground. Change sides frequently to avoid overusing one side of your body.

6. Safely bag and lift the raked leaves. When bagging leaves, avoid bending at the waist. Kneel or sit down to reduce stress on the low back. If kneeling, use a foam pad or cushion so you don’t place excessive pressure on the knees. If possible, rake leaves onto a tarp and have another person help move the tarp. Avoid overfilling the bags, particularly when leaves are wet as they are heavier. When lifting the bagged leaves, bend at the knees, tighten your core, and keep your back straight. Lift manageable loads and try to avoid twisting and straining— especially if lifting heavy bags alone.

Enjoy all that the fall season has to offer and follow these injury prevention tips when raking leaves!

Safe Yard Work: Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Sudden, sharp pain, or dull, incessant aching pain while raking leaves should never be ignored. Stop working if pain persists.

Listening to the signals your body is sending helps you understand when to stop before injuries occur. Reward a hard day’s work with a warm bath or shower to soothe achy muscles. Do some gentle stretching to cool down. If pain persists, especially after proper precautions and healing methods have been exhausted, talk to your doctor.

If you experience pain or injury during any time of year, you’ll need an orthopedic specialist you can trust to help get you back on your feet.  Our fellowship-trained physicians offer surgical and non-surgical treatments to get you back to your normal activities! Click here to book your appointment today.

If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Safely Rake Leaves to Avoid Orthopedic Injury

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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.