Everyone loves the colors of fall foliage, but when those leaves hit the ground and it's time to rake, that's another story. It’s common for people to rush the chore of leaf raking, but this can lead to bad technique and increase the risk of strains and pains in the back, neck or shoulders, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

“Whether it’s a common rake or more advanced equipment such as leaf blower, simple preparations and proper use of lawn equipment can reduce the risk of injury,” says Scott Bautch, DC, president of the ACA Council on Occupational Health.

Consider the following tips for painless leaf raking: 

  • Wear supportive shoes. Good foot and arch support can prevent some back pain.
  • Stand as straight as possible, and keep your head up as you rake or leaf blow.
  • When raking, use a “scissors” stance: right foot forward and left foot back for a few minutes, then reverse, putting your left foot forward and right foot back.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist, as you pick up yard equipment or piles of leaves. Make the piles small to decrease the possibility of back strain.
  • Wear a hat, shoes and protective glasses. To avoid blisters, wear gloves, and if you have asthma or allergies, wear a mask.
  • Drink a lot of water before and after your work.

The use of leaf blowers may make lawn management easier, but misuse of such equipment can easily send you to the local chiropractor. The following suggestions can help you enjoy a productive and pain-free day in the yard:

  • If your leaf blower has a strap, use it. Place the strap over your head on the shoulder opposite the side of your body from the device to help normalize the center of gravity.
  • Be sure to switch the side of the body on which you operate the leaf blower frequently, and alternate your stance and motion often to balance the muscles being used.
  • Use ergonomic tools, when possible. They are engineered to protect you when used properly.

To speak with Dr. Scott Bautch, who can offer additional guidance on this topic, please contact Amanda Donohue at [email protected] or 703-812-0209. To find a chiropractor near you, visit ACA's website.