Protect Yourself During Fall Cleanup - Buffalo Rehab Group
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It’s fall!

Here in Buffalo, the air is crisp, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and brightly colored leaves are piling up in a hurry.

Most of us are starting our fall cleanup before the snow flies.

With fall cleanup comes raking, lifting, collecting brush, and gathering yard waste — which can be some of the least enjoyable tasks of the season.

They can also be the most painful, as these motions can cause you to feel aches and pains in your lower back, shoulders, and hips.

We want to help you combat these yard work aches and pains!

Fall Cleanup Safety

In this video, Physical Therapist Chris Ponichtera, PT DPT, explains why your lower back is so fragile while completing fall cleanup, along with three keys for keeping your body safe while raking, pushing a wheelbarrow, and cleaning up debris.

The “Why” Your Back Can Hurt with Fall Cleanup

Before we jump in, it’s important to understand why your low back can be potentially injured during fall cleanup.

It’s no secret that our backs are vulnerable; in fact, 31 million Americans experience some form of low back pain at any given time!

When we rake leaves or push that wheelbarrow, we bend forward naturally without thinking about it. This motion can create pain in your low back or even down the legs, and this pain can get worse with repetitive movements. Furthermore, it’s even worse when you combine bending with twisting. No wonder it can hurt to rake leaves!

So, what do we do to avoid pinching on those nerves and getting hurt?


When you’ve found a nice pile of leaves to rake, think of these three things before you start.

  • Knees
  • Core
  • Arms

It’s that easy!

When you walk up to the leaves, you’ll want to…

  1. Stand directly in front of the pile and bend your knees slightly — forcing the big muscles in your legs to activate.
  2. Engage your core muscles and keep your chest upright. These muscles make the low back move correctly. If they aren’t working how they should be working, the low back will suffer during movement.
  3. Reach your arms forward ahead of the leaves, and pull them back. Squeeze those muscles between your shoulder blades like you’re pulling a rope toward you and bring those leaves in!

Using a Wheelbarrow

You should have the same three thoughts when you’re going to push a wheelbarrow.

  1. Step up and square up to the cart, and bend your knees.
  2. Keep your chest up and engage your core — don’t bend forward.
  3. Using your legs, pick the wheelbarrow up by the handles.
  4. Put one leg forward, and push the wheelbarrow forward nice and easy.

Remember to avoid bending and twisting movements.

Lifting Debris

When you reach down to clean up leaves or other debris, keep the safety of your back in mind.

Bend the knees and keep your chest upright, grab your debris, and then rise through your knees, keeping that core nice and tight while you’re moving.

While we all love the fall season, it is important to remember to be safe. Your body is too important to damage it while trying to clean the yard up!

Want help for low back or shoulder pain?

If fall yard cleanup is causing you low back or shoulder pain, our physical and occupational therapists can help.

Treatment is covered by insurance, no referral is needed to start, and with flexible in-clinic and virtual appointments, you can find a time fast that works with your schedule.

Call 716-458-1990 or click below to schedule at one of our convenient locations throughout Western New York.