Don’t throw out your back while picking up leaves

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(Cleveland Clinic)- As autumn leaves start to hit the ground, it can be tempting to set aside some time for a little fall clean-up.

But, according to Chad Adams, DC, of Cleveland Clinic, you should be careful to avoid what he calls the dreaded ‘BLT,’ or, bending, lifting and twisting.

“The most important thing you can do is, if you’re putting any kind of heavy load in some kind of receptacle, is have it close to you and your feet pointing at it,” he said.

“You want to be able to lift things up and put it directly into the bin to avoid that bend-lift-twist position that puts the body at the biggest compromise.”

Dr. Adams said bending, lifting and twisting can cause intense low back pain, especially when done repetitively.

When we bend over and the bones of the back separate, it gives the disc the opportunity to slip out. And when the weight of heavy, wet leaves is added to the load, it increases the risk of injury even more.

“Remember leaves get wet; leaves can freeze; they can be very unassuming as far as the weight of them,” said Dr. Adams.

“So when you’re using lifting practices, or even when you’re in the act of raking leaves, make sure that the proper body mechanics are used. Do not underestimate how heavy a bag of leaves can be.”

When the back is a little sore after some yard work, Dr. Adams recommends doing some gentle movement and applying ice or heat, as needed, but don’t sit completely still – as this can make back pain worse.

Once these things have been tried, if there’s still pain, Dr. Adams said it’s time to be evaluated by a professional, especially if someone has had back pain before.

“Quite often, these injuries don’t go away,” he said. “The symptoms might subside, but the underlying cause may not go away. You will need to do some kind of rehab into the future, to shore up the area, strengthen the area, and bring that range of motion back in the correct ranges of motion; this is vitally important.”

Dr. Adams said it’s helpful to pause and break up yard work into pieces. He said folks can rake using both sides of the body so that they’re altering motions.

If possible, consider hiring someone to do yard work or at least lend a helping hand.

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