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Leaves - They are heavier than you think!
by Dr. Brian S. Seaman, DC, FRCCSS(C), FICC

The Fall season is fast approaching.  The nights are cooler and most mornings there is a chill in the air.  Before we know it, the grass will not need to be mowed every few days, and the leaves will begin to change into beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red. 

Now for the downside - - those leaves eventually fall off our trees and bushes, covering our once green lawns with a brown carpet.  While the children and family pets love to play in the leaves, the leaves do represent a significant amount of yard work.  Obviously, the best time to clean the leaves up is when they are dry and light to lift.  It is much easier to rake dry leaves, and less messy to bag them for curb side pick up (or backyard composting) than when they are wet.  However all of us have likely been put in the situation of having left the leaves too long, or encountered the wet and cold weather of October or November.  This makes cleaning up the leaves much more of a chore and certainly less enjoyable.  Sometimes an early storm catches us all off guard leaving the leaves until the spring to clean up.  This of course is very hard on the lawn. 

When the leaves are wet, they become much heavier and can increase the possibility of you injuring your back.  Every Fall, chiropractors see many individuals who injure themselves by over doing it.  When you start cleaning up the leaves do small sections of the lawn if there are a lot of leaves down.  Some people find it helpful to divide the lawn into “grids” or decide that they will concentrate on one particular area of the lawn that day. 

If you have a mower with an attached bag, running over the lawn every few days will not only clean up the leaves with significantly less strain on your back, but it will also mulch them for easy composting. 

The oversized rakes make raking a much easier job.  Also, there are a number of brands which now coat the handle of the rake with foam making it much easier to grip (especially if you have arthritis in your hands and wrists).  Its also easier to grip the handle when you are wearing gloves or mittens.

If cleaning up the wet leaves from the gutter in front of your house, instead of a rake, use a small shovel to scoop them out.  Put those leaves right in the bag at curb side, and then you will not have to even lift it.  They will be there for the city crews to pick up.

There are a number of different types of products available which will hold your leaf bags up, and open.  These are great time savers and make it much easier.  It will also allow you to use 2 hands to scoop up the leaves, rather than trying to hold the bag open with one hand.

With the cooler weather, remember to dress properly.  Wear several layers, so that if it becomes too warm during our “Indian Summer” you can remove a layer or two.

Be careful not to do any one activity for too long.  Also, do not stay bent over or stooped for long periods of time.  These are activities or positions, which your back is likely not used to and it will tell you so – back pain, hip pain or leg pain.

Try to switch your hands when raking.  This will shift the strain of raking from one side of the body to the other and you may find that you are less sore the next day.  Take your time when you switch sides – your co-ordination might be a bit off!

If you do strain the muscles in your back or shoulders, do not try to work through it.  Take a rest and start applying ice packs for 15-20 minutes every couple of hours.  This can help alleviate the pain and reduce any soreness the next day. 

If the pain is not easing, consult with your health care professional.  Do not be one of those people who suffers needlessly, by telling themselves “it will be better in a few days” or “I thought it would go away”! 

Hopefully these hints will make the Fall clean-up a bit easier this year.  Enjoy the Fall season because we all know what come next - - the white fluffy stuff - - but it can get wet too!

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