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Importance of Proper Form and Good Health During Fall Clean Up

Although a stunning time of year to spend outdoors, autumn brings a lot of cleaning with the change in color and the eventual fall of leaves.

Below, we provide some useful tips to help you maintain good posture and avoid injury during (and after) fall cleanup.

What Is Fall Cleanup?

To put it simply, fall cleanup involves preparing your lawn for spring. Although it sounds simple, this involves clearing drainage areas, removing debris, pruning, and taking protective measures for plants.

  • Clearing drainage areas: Your property probably has areas that slope more than others which provide water with places to collect. To prevent damage to equipment or plants, it is important to dry these areas out before the cold weather arrives.
  • Cleaning out debris: It’s important to clean gutters, lawns, and decks, as well as dispose of leaves. During fall cleanups, your property gets one last cleaning before the snow falls or the temperatures drop.
  • Protective measures for plants: Taking preventive measures with your plants to withstand cold weather is also part of fall cleanup.

Why Proper Form is Important When Doing Outdoor Chores

Before we jump in, it’s important to understand why injuries could be inevitable during or after fall cleanup.

It’s no secret that our backs and other parts of the body are vulnerable. Whether we're raking leaves or pushing a wheelbarrow, we bend forward automatically without even thinking about it. When you perform this motion repeatedly, it can create pain in your lower back or even down your legs. Further, bending and twisting together can be even more dangerous.

Common Fall Cleanup Injuries

  • A sprained or strained shoulder or elbow
  • Muscle soreness caused by repetitive sweeping and raking
  • Back pain caused by frequent bending and lifting when bagging and cleaning
  • Injuries to the knees

Maintain Good Posture

First, start by wearing comfortable shoes, which can help you relax and feel more at ease while doing yard work. Yard work can put a lot of strain on your feet and legs, but good foot and arch support can prevent that strain from traveling up your back. When gardening, wear sturdy sneakers or boots instead of sandals or flip-flops.

  • Whenever possible, avoid bending over or reaching too far.
  • Avoid repetitive twisting.
  • Make sure the handle of the rake is suitable for your height.
  • Don’t stand in one position for too long, as it places more stress on the spine.
  • Shifting one foot slightly forward will help you move the rake handle in several directions.
  • To avoid back injuries, bend at the knees instead of the waist when picking up things.
  • Know your limits. If you need help moving something heavy, like patio furniture, don’t hesitate to ask someone for help.

Take It Easy

During bagging and loading, bend at your hips and knees and keep your back straight. When you squat, keep your knees behind your toes.

You should keep the load close to you while lifting and transferring it. If you have a large backyard, you can do the activity in two or three sessions rather than in one go.

Warming up is also a good idea. You can walk for 15 minutes, for example. When you return, your body should be well prepared for the next task.

Stretch and Hydrate

Before you begin cleaning, take a walk and stretch. As a result, your shoulders, neck, and back will not be strained. After you've finished, stretch gently to relieve muscle tension. Be sure to stay hydrated and avoid overexerting yourself.

Choose the Right Equipment and Tools

When raking, safety is of the utmost importance. It’s crucial to select a rake that is appropriate for your height and strength in order to prevent injuries and maximize efficiency. If you are going to purchase a rake, make sure that you can perform raking movements effectively. If you’re struggling in the store, you’ll likely struggle in your backyard as well.

When choosing equipment, you should also make sure they can take some strain off your back. As an example, trimmers provide stability while edging and weeding. In the same way, retractable garden hoses are easier to carry when watering various areas in the garden.

What Happens If You’re In Pain After Fall Cleaning?

It’s normal to have little muscle soreness after fall cleanup. If the pain isn’t too severe, the usual at-home treatments like applying heat or ice should be effective in relieving your discomfort.

However, if that doesn’t work, and your soreness lasts more than two days, then it’s best to plan a visit with your physical therapist. That’s because you could be dealing with an injury that needs proper treatment from a trained health professional who specializes in rehabilitation and injury prevention.

Other Tips for a Safe and Injury-Free Fall Cleanup

In most fall cleanup activities, we bend and twist at the spine, which is often unnecessary. Getting in touch with a physical therapist as soon as possible will help you:

  • Get a 'body tune-up'. With the holiday season approaching, your physical therapist can help diagnose any muscle imbalances that may predispose you to injury.
  • Prepare for any activity by stretching and warming up properly.
  • Learn the correct lifting technique (which we can teach you).
  • Make your core stronger.

You should also consider engaging in regular light exercise, whether you’re doing yardwork or not. A little physical activity such as walking and stretching can help keep you in great shape, giving you the best chance at staying healthy and speeding up recovery if you do sustain an injury.

At AmeriCare, we’re here to help you stay healthy and make sure you don’t injure yourself this season. That way, you and your family can enjoy all of the fun and excitement that this beautiful fall season has to offer.

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