HOUGHTON - Raking can be a good form of exercise, however, Adaptive PT Physical Therapist Matt Solka said if not practiced in the proper form, raking can also cause injuries such as low back pain and shoulder tendinitis.
"Low back pain and shoulder tendinitis are two of the most common injuries because they are both associated with overuse or doing the same repetitive motion," said Solka.
When beginning the raking process, Solka stressed that the most important part is keeping a straight back and not performing the same movement over and over again, which can be avoided by alternating hand and feet positions throughout the day.
"As you're standing, you want to stand with one foot in front of the other to give your body the capabilities to transition your weight between feet and get a further reach so you aren't bending at the waist," said Solka.
While using the rake, it is important to keep one hand toward the top and one hand lower to allow for better leverage and continue alternating.
Stretching back and shoulder muscles before and after raking will help to decrease the risk of injury. Beneficial stretches range from backward leans to side leans and trunk rotations, along with overhead arm stretches to loosen muscles.
"Also taking a walk to get circulation going beforehand will help keep a person from getting too tired," Solka said.
While raking, remember to take a break after 15 to 30 minutes to stretch out and rehydrate.
"Rake either a few days at a time or rake 30 minutes and take a 10-minute break if completing the raking all in one day," Solka said. "You want to go slow; try not to do too much, too fast."
Another common problem people encounter while raking is the strain associated with the lifting of the large leaf bags. In cases where the leaves are wet or there are numerous leaves, it is better to rake into smaller piles to make the loads more manageable.
"When moving bags, keep your back straight, bend with your legs and knees," said Solka. "And monitor the weight to avoid creating strain injuries or back injuries."
Posture isn't the only important factor, using the right rake is also essential to avoiding injuries this fall.
"Try to find a rake or other tool to accommodate your body, height, and also a comfortable hand position," said Solka.
In today's market, ergonomic tools, including snow shovels and rakes, are becoming more popular to promote good posture.
There are a variety of ergonomic rakes on the market, Solka said. Some rakes are bent and others have handles that will move to help pick up leaves easier.
"All of the equipment, when used properly and by the right person, will decrease the stress of raking on the body, especially the lower back and shoulders," said Solka. "That's why choosing a rake that is appropriate for your size or body type become an important part in the process."