Woman raking pile of fall leaves at garden with rake. Autumn yard work

Raking Leaves Safely

It’s that time of year again when the leaves start to fall and you spend your entire Saturday raking. While it might not seem painful at the time, the next day people often find themselves paying for their hard work with back pain, sore shoulders, and aching wrists. How can this be prevented? 

Raking and sweeping use similar motions by causing the body to twist at the low back while the legs stay planted in the same place. Also, when you rake and bend forward repeatedly, this causes a strain on the muscles in your mid and lower back. Poor body mechanics combined with weak abdominal and back muscles can result in low back pain. 

Here are Some Healthy Tips for Raking Safely


Try putting on your favorite music and dance for 3 minutes. March or jog in place for a few minutes.


These are three stretches that target the trunk, legs, and upper body:

  1. Countertop stretch: Place your hands on your kitchen counter and walk backward until your body makes an L-shape. Bend or hinge forward from your hips while keeping your back and lengthen your arms forward. You’ll feel a stretch in your back and throughout your trunk. Hold this for ten long, deep breaths. 
  2. Heel up on a chair stretch: While holding onto something for support, straighten your leg out and place your heel up on a chair, tighten the thigh, and pull your toes towards your body. Feel the stretch in the back of your leg. There’s no need to bend forward, and it’s better if you don’t. Just stand up tall and keep both legs active. Hold 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. 
  3. Bent knee with the ankle in hand stretch: Keep holding onto something for support as you grab one foot with one hand behind your buttocks and hold it as you bend that leg. You should feel this stretch in the front of the thigh of the bent leg as you hold for ten breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Core Strengthening Exercise

While standing, imagine pulling your belly button in towards your spine and engaging abdominal muscles without letting your pelvis tuck under. Try holding this for 5-10 seconds while breathing normally, and repeat a few times. This exercise uses the innermost layer of ab and back muscles and reminds your body where the center of your core strength is.


As you are raking, focus on the rotating movements in your hips. You can place your finger on the front of your hips and practice a few sways side to side, simulating raking. Avoid letting the rotation happen at your waist—this will cause unnecessary movement around your lumbar spine. Continue to focus on the core strength exercise above and engage your belly button in towards your spine as you rake. Pay attention to loosening up any stiffness in your legs and trunk muscles, and you’ll go a long way in preventing injury to your back.

Here to Help

If you suffer from chronic neck pain or low back pain, it’s always a good idea to get some exercise advice and education from a physical therapist. Our experienced and dedicated licensed physical therapists can help you get started. With Direct Access a prescription is not required before receiving physical therapy treatments.

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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