AAOS Offers Tips for Raking Without Aching

'Tis the season to, among other things, get the rake out and start taking care of those leaves, so the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org) has posted a timely reminder that this outdoor task is often more physically demanding than people realize. Even though the activity does not involve power tools or sharp blades, it can still cause injuries, so rakers should take precautions, AAOS says.

"Many people consider raking just another chore, but it requires a lot more reaching, bending and lifting than most odd jobs," says Daryll C. Dykes, M.D., Ph.D., orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesman. "Raking should be treated like any other vigorous exercise. People should pay close attention to their arms and backs, being careful not to reach or stretch too far."

AAOS offers the following recommendations to prevent injuries while raking:

  • With any physical activity, it is important to warm up your muscles for at least 10 minutes with light exercise and stretching, especially when it is cold outside. You should also stretch your muscles after raking to relieve tension and prevent soreness.
  • Use a rake that feels comfortable for your height and strength. Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to help prevent blisters.
  • Avoid using old rakes that have gotten rusty or that have loose or broken parts.
  • Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch out for large rocks, low branches, tree stumps, and uneven surfaces.
  • Try to vary your movements, alternating your leg and arm positions often. When picking up leaves, bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Exercise care walking on wet leaves, which can be very slippery. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
  • Avoid overfilling leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. You should be able to carry bags comfortably, so make sure they aren’t too heavy or large.>/li>
  • Do not throw the leaves over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that places undue stress on your back.

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