Autumn Raking Tips
After that recent and early snowfall this year, many leaves still left on the trees came down just as hard as the snow did, but there's still plenty of trees with plenty of leaves that will be falling soon as well. If your lawn usually ends up with a lot of leaves, you'll likely be raking them soon if you haven't already so here's a few tips on how to keep the work easier on your spine and perhaps even less time consuming as well.
To start with, make sure you have good conditions for raking. The two most important aspects of this are that you want all or nearly all of the leaves down. You also want to make sure that you don't do it shortly after rainfall as wet leaves will not only make the work harder, but slipping on wet leaves is a very real possibility which is best avoided.
Proper equipment is next. Regarding the rake itself, wider will generally be more helpful as leaves are light enough anyway that being able to rake more leaves at once is more beneficial. Typical recommendations call for a 30in width. “No clog” rakes will also help by avoiding having to pull of pierced leaves as frequently. Also, although not as helpful for the spine, wearing work gloves will help protect your hands when bagging so many dry leaves.
Form and posture are of course what will most directly affect spinal health when raking. It's important to stay upright rather than bending and whatever bending does need to be done should take place at the knees. Switching arms and leading leg frequently will also help prevent excess strain on one side. Any twisting or turning that does need to be done should be fluid motions rather than wrenching either your back or shoulders. This is not only good for the body, but makes the work easier in general compared to using jerking motions. Don't lift more than necessary at any one time and be sure to take several breaks and stretch for a few minutes both before and after raking.
Finally, there are several methods when it comes to the overall strategy of raking a yard and here are a few particularly good ones to keep in mind. If you have a hill, always try and rake downhill. As mentioned before, leaves are light, but they do follow the flow of gravity and you'll end up with a lot less leaves escaping your rake if working downhill. Another option is dividing the lawn into quadrants and raking in rows rather than trying right away to bring everything in to the center from the beginning. This is helpful for another reason: it allows you to rake with the wind in each quadrant as opposed to against it at times when working only toward the center. And of course another option to avoid raking the leaves all together is to simply mow over them. This still has a few drawbacks namely that it works best only with a moderate to small amount of leaves, absolutely requires dry leaves, you'll probably want a dust mask if you choose to do so, and may require a grass catcher especially if you do decide to mow with a greater number of leaves. However, it also has benefits beyond just avoiding raking, namely broken down leaves provide better mulch either for your lawn, or elsewhere for later use if you do use a leaf catcher.
We at the Reinecke Chiropractic all hope that you have a great, healthy, and hopefully less snowy rest of Autumn.