Cooler temperatures have arrived, clocks have been turned back and leaves have fallen, lots of them. This presents us with the annual task of raking and bagging leaves. It is important that during this time of rigorous, strenuous, and physically demanding activity that we safely and efficiently use our bodies to prevent injury. Proper lifting mechanics will be crucial in the completion of this task, but before any lifting even takes place it is vital that prior to lifting you assess the situation. By simply lifting one of the corners of the bag you will know if the load is too heavy to lift, in which case never be afraid to ask for help. Also, take into account how far you have to carry the load, any obstacles in your path, or if you would benefit from wearing gloves to get a better grip/protect your hands.
Once you have assessed the situation and are prepared to lift a bag of leaves, or any item for that matter, be sure to follow these core principles of proper lifting mechanics:
- Lift with your feet shoulder width apart, get close to what you are going to lift and center yourself over it;
- Tighten your stomach muscles, as those abdominal muscles increase intra-abdominal pressure and support your back;
- Get a good grip of the object and make sure that you keep it close to you. The farther away the load is from your body the heavier it will feel;
- Use your legs! By bending your knees and squatting down—while being sure to keep your back at a neutral arch—you can properly utilize your leg muscles to lift. These muscles are far stronger than the smaller muscles located in your back;
- Use a smooth motion when you lift making sure to not jerk the object you are lifting;
- Do not twist or turn while you are lifting. Once you have lifted the item keep your head up and look straight ahead while keeping the item close to your body. (Nose and toes should always be pointing in the same direction.)
Setting the load down utilizes many of the same principles you would use to lift the item up. Remember to bend with your knees and maintain the curves of your back. Again, make sure not to twist your body when setting the load down and never release the item until the load is secure.
By following these core principles of proper lifting mechanics, you can ensure that you’ll be better able to prevent injury this fall while taking care of your yard. At Amity Physical Therapy we can teach you the proper way to lift items and maintain a healthy back. In the event that you do injure yourself while raking and bagging leaves, we can properly treat your pain and restore your body back to full function.
Nathan Lindsley PTA is a graduate of the Mercyhurst University PTA Program in Erie, Pennsylvania. Previously he graduated with a BS Degree from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA where he played varsity baseball and was voted Scholar Athlete of the Year. At Amity Physical Therapy Nate specializes in manual therapy techniques, neuromuscular reeducation and therapeutic exercise in order to individualize patient treatment. Amity Physical Therapy was founded thirteen years ago by Michael Dow MSPT and CEO/Clinical Director. The practice has three offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Nate Lindsley can be reached at 203-389-4593 or visit amitypt.com.