Each year more than 76,000 Americans are hurt while raking leaves or using other manual garden tools, according to The Center for Physical Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at The Chester County Hospital at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
The CPSC also says that while not as many people have been injured while hanging decorations (around an average of 15,000 people per year over the past 16 years), injuries from hanging lights and inflatables have resulted in deaths.
Just like any physical activity, raking leaves and hanging decorations can take a toll on your body as well as result in accidents or injury. Many of the muscles used for such tasks may not be ones that you use normally, so be careful and aware of your surroundings and your body.
Follow these tips to help you stay safe while raking leaves and opening decorations!
Choose Your Tools Wisely
Many people do not realize it, but it is possible to injure yourself by using a rake that is the wrong size. A rake that is too long or too short will place unnecessary strain on the back, arms, and torso. Using a rake that is larger than normal may seem like an easy way to gather more leaves, but it can cause unnecessary straining and reaching. The rake should be a comfortable length when moving up and down. Using a lightweight, ergonomic, rake can ensure that your elbows are slightly bent and help you maintain good posture while raking.
Practice Proper Raking Techniques
If possible, rake leaves onto a tarp and have another person help move the tarp. If you must stoop to pick up leaves, face the pile and do not twist as you lift. Just make sure to keep the load light and be careful to use good body mechanics when lifting the tarp.
Practice Proper Raking Posture
Improperly lifting heavy bags of wet leaves is one of the most common ways to sustain an injury while raking. When lifting bags of leaves, keep the back straight and bend with the knees and hips. Lift manageable loads and allow the legs to do most of the lifting,” Don’t pile too many leaves into one bag – especially if they are wet.
Create a Rake Routine – Warm Up, Cool Down, Rake, Rest, Repeat
It may not seem like a workout, but you can burn nearly 300 calories during an hour of raking! Walk around a bit before you start so your blood gets flowing. Do a couple of stretches to prevent straining the muscles of your shoulders, neck, and back. Side bends and knee-to-chest lifts help open you up and ready you for all of the raking, bending, and lifting you’ll do.
Some people want to power through and get the raking done as quickly as possible. Taking short breaks to catch your breath, drink some water, stretch your muscles again, and admire your progress is more beneficial. Tackling the entire yard at one time can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task. Dividing up the yard into sections and committing to a section or two at a time can make things more manageable.
Don’t Drink and Decorate
Lay off the eggnog and save it for after the decorating. Many decorating injuries involve alcohol.
Don’t Decorate Alone, Ask for Help
The last thing you want is to be injured for the holidays or any special event. If something does happen, you want someone to be around to help you or call for help. Make sure to not let your family decorate alone as well.
Offer to help out, especially if they’re elderly. Enlist the help of family or friends when it comes time to hang Christmas lights. Not only can this make the task more exciting, but it also allows the opportunity to take breaks when your spine pain is flaring up.
When you are worried that a certain task may be too much for your back, ask for help. This can prevent any injuries to your spine and make hanging Christmas lights a bonding experience.
Check Your Ladder Before You Use It
Place the ladder on solid, even ground when using a ladder to hang your decorations, make sure to position it properly. Make sure none of the rungs are broken and that you don’t exceed the recommended weight limit. Also, make sure the rungs are dry before you climb.
Use the 4-to-1 rule: for every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall. And have someone hold it steady for you.
Keep Kids Safe on the Ground
Kids will want to help you decorate, but they’re better off handing you tools or holding the ladder.
A ladder that is not angled correctly could lead to a fall that could injure your back and exacerbate your spine pain. According to the Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management Department, a ladder should be placed at a 75-degree angle against the side of your home to be used safely and avoid falls.
Get Plenty of Rest and Take Breaks
A lack of sleep is hypothesized to contribute to chronic pain. By getting plenty of sleep the night before you plan to hang your decorations, you can ensure your body and spine are up to the task. This can help reduce pain on the spine when you’re reaching and climbing on ladders.
While you may feel as though you can’t wait to get your decorations hung and ready to light up your house, it is important to take breaks to allow your spine to recuperate. This allows the body to release stress and tension that may build while reaching, tugging, and pulling on various items. If you suffer from pain, swelling, or stiffness in the joints it is especially important when your pain symptoms are bothering you, as continuing your activity could lead to injury or further pain symptoms.
Whether you are a first-time patient or have had an experience with us, you will find our office to be a welcoming atmosphere of people who care. Remember, injuries that are improperly treated or neglected can worsen as time passes, possibly even causing permanent disabilities or conditions.
Give us a call today and make an appointment for you and your family. We look forward to the opportunity of providing you with an excellent level of service, a friendly and warm office, and a doctor that is as motivated about your unlimited health potential as you are.