Optimal Body Mechanics When Raking

Earlier this spring, I was visiting my Mom and was asked if I could help with some yard work, which turned out to be primarily raking up old leaves and branches from the previous fall and winter.

I was excited to be outside, being physically active, and, of course, helping out.

While raking, I tried to remember to use my core, squat down to pick up the piles of leaves, using my legs to push myself to stand, and carry the bagged leaves to the curb, all while having my water bottle near to stay hydrated.

Well, it turned out to be quite the project…
In 3 ½ hours, I filled 16 leaf bags in addition to carrying each one to the curb.

Later that day, I began to feel the soreness starting in many areas of my body. That evening my back began to hurt and tighten, worsening as the evening progressed. I wondered if it might even seize up with spasms.

I took an Epson salt bath and laid on an ice pack until I was able to fall asleep. The next morning, my body hurt in places I was not even aware that I had used.

Through this experience, I was reminded how difficult it can be to remember to maintain good posture and body mechanics while doing a physical activity.

I found that as much as I tried, I still over-used my dominant leg to push to stand, I did not take near enough breaks, and at times, found myself reaching with the rake and not engaging my core.

Here are some reminders while doing yard work:

  1. Engage your core by slightly tilting your tailbone towards your pubic bone.
  2. Squat or come down on one knee instead of bending over.
  3. When lifting from ground or floor level, always push with your feet while squeezing your glutes as you stand.
  4. Stay hydrated.
  5. Take several breaks, perhaps using a timer to reinforce this.
  6. Work in small areas at a time.
  7. Avoid over-reaching by moving your feet or body to stay close to your work area.
  8. Alternate which side you work on, avoiding always using your dominant side.

I was reminded it can be a lot to think about while enjoying an activity.

If you’re having trouble, experiencing pain, or injure yourself, visit your Physical Therapist right away. They can help determine if there is a muscle imbalance, dysfunctional movement pattern, or poor core engagement that is needed for good posture and body mechanics.