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Published on October 17, 2014

Don’t Let Outdoor Chores Cause Autumn Sores

10/17/14Raking leaves

The trees in your yard are ablaze with color now, but all of those beautiful leaves will soon litter your grass and clog your gutters. Learn how to dispose of fallen foliage without injury.


Raking leaves and plucking debris out of gutters seem like harmless activities, but they’re rife with potential hazards. You can largely avoid strained muscles, falls and blister-covered hands by taking a few commonsense precautions, starting before you take the rake or ladder out of the garage. Spend 15 minutes stretching to loosen your muscles and get the blood flowing to them before starting to work. Warming up is especially important if you don’t exercise regularly—tackling yard chores cold can easily result in muscle strains and sprains.

Now that your body is ready to go, grab your gloves to protect your hands from insect bites and sore-inducing repetitive rubbing. Start raking with these safety tips in mind:

Hone your technique.

Proper posture is the most important component of safe raking. Spread your feet apart, grip the rake near the end of the handle and a little more than halfway down the shaft, and rake with compact, efficient strokes. Keep your back straight and twist your entire body to deposit leaves in piles.

Switch things up.

Vary your positioning to avoid overworking the same muscle groups. Change hands and sides of your body after forming each leaf pile, or whenever fatigue begins to set in.

Pace yourself.

Take frequent rest and water breaks—the leaves will still be there tomorrow if you don’t finish the job today.

Lift with your legs.

When it’s time to bag the leaves, don’t overfill the sacks, and use your legs to lift them. If you have a large yard, roll bags to the curb for garbage pickup in a wheelbarrow.

Going Up

Your next task: freeing your gutters from weeks’ worth of fallen leaves. After a hard day’s raking, save the ladder work for another day so your mind and reflexes will be sharp. When you decide to take on the job, inspect your ladder for loose or damaged parts, and ensure it is tall enough for you to reach the gutters without having to stand on the top step. Wear nonslip shoes to safeguard against falls.

Once you’ve placed the ladder on level ground, it’s time to climb. Follow the American Ladder Institute’s Three Points-of-Contact rule for stability: Always face the ladder and keep both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand on the rungs and railings. Ascend and descend slowly. Don’t overextend yourself, which could cause the ladder to sway or tip. When you finish cleaning a section of the gutter, climb down and move the ladder instead of stretching to grab one more handful of leaves.

Show Your Shoulders Some Love

Raking leaves and cleaning tree debris from gutters are shoulder-centric activities, and all of that reaching, rotating and lifting could lead to injury.

To increase your chance of making it through fall yard chores with your shoulders unscathed, begin strengthening the joints weeks in advance, especially if you don’t normally exercise them. Elastic bands can help you perform resistance exercises—simply attach a band to a doorknob and pull toward you. For an even simpler form of shoulder strengthening, sit in a chair with armrests, keep your back straight and feet on the floor, and push yourself up using the armrests. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends performing five repetitions of each activity—five with each arm for the band pull—twice daily.

Injuries can occur despite your best efforts. If you experience any of the following shoulder symptoms, speak with your primary care physician or an orthopedic surgeon:

  • Instability
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness 


To find a doctor visit 

If your chores do make you sore visit KishHealth System Physical Therapy

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