Raking Leaves Safely and Effectively: Rake Without the Ache

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Want to burn 300 calories an hour?


Want to rake your leaves without hurting yourself?


In the issue I show you the best way to “Rake Without the Ache”


If you have a lot of aches and pains, buying a leaf blower is an option.


Even buying a leaf blower can still cause you problems though. For most of you, the leaves still need to be picked up. Bagging leaves is the biggest potential problem for your lower back.


Every year I usually have somebody put out their lower back from raking leaves. They usually come in saying that they were bending over to put leaves in a bag when their back went out.


Sometimes they come bent over to one side, sometime they are bent forward and can’t straighten out. You won’t have to come in to this downtown Toronto Chiropractic Clinic if you follow these recommendations.

Wait Until Most of The Leaves Fall Off


Waiting till most of leaves fall off gives you one or two big jobs to do. This is a sound strategy but if you have rain in the forecast, I recommend doing the job before the leaves get wet.  It just gets heavy and slippery with much more potential for injuring your lower back.



Buy a rake with good handle that is easy to grip with a pair of gloves. The rake head should be larger. For most things in life bigger isn’t better but in this case this makes  sense.


The specialty ergonomic rakes are not any more useful then the ergonomic shovels for shovelling snow. This is personal preference.


Verdict: Buy a rake with a large rake-head. The handle doesn’t need to be special if you use a pair of gloves with good grip.

Dress The Part


I find the rubberized gloves or leather gloves that fit your hands snugly, to be the best to grip a rake. A lightweight jacket with a zipper in front that keeps you the cold out, can easily be taken off when things get warm from raking. Shoes with slip-proof soles for those times that you come upon a wet patch of leaves. If you have allergies to mould, wear a mask to prevent an flare-up of your allergies.

Warm-up Using Butt-lifting technique

Butt Lifting Technique With Proper Spinal Curve in Green

Butt Lifting Technique With Proper Spinal Curve in Green


Butt-Lifting is the best way to warm-up. Why? You are practicing what you will be doing later on. Lifting leaves off the ground with your hands. How do I do Butt Lifting?

  • With a wide straddled stance, move as close as you can to the load.
  • Bend from the hip and stick out your butt – to keep your spinal curve. Your spine should be curved as depicted by the green line in the photo above.
  • Grab as many of the leaves as you can.
  • Using your large leg muscles, simply straighten your legs.
  • Do 3 sets of 10.


To Turn: Turn both feet first, and your lower back will follow.

See Also: Lifting techniques: Back Safety Lifting Techniques


Here’s why, you need to practice your lifting technique. Butt lifting technique will warm you up very quickly, but it also is the right way to lift most items including loose leaves and bags of leaves.


The key is to squat down with your butt sticking. By sticking out your butt you maintain the curve in your lower back. Studies by Dr. Stuart McGill have shown that maintaining the curve in your lower back is the key to decreasing the pressure in your disc and your spine.


Not warmed up yet. Go for a walk around the yard then do another 3 sets of 10 butt-lifting techniques. I’m quite sure you will be properly warmed up.



Be careful of some websites that recommend forward bending to warm-up. If you have a disc problem this is a sure way to put your disc out. Later after you finish raking you may have sciatica

See also: The 4 Best Exercises For People With Sciatica

Raking Techniques


  • Switch Sides often: A principle about the lower back is that distributing the strains on the back will prevent the pressures from reaching the critical point where you will get pain.
  • Hold one hand near the end and reach with your arms
  • Walk sideways like a crab. From a wide stance to a narrow stance move sideways while raking the leaves in front of you. This way you don’t bend your back forwards or twist.

Bagging Techniques

Raking Leaves-Save Your Low Back The Best Way Possible- Toronto Chiropractor

I like to use apple baskets and re-cycling bins and not bags. They are sturdy and easier to put leaves into.


Using the Butt-Lifting technique stick out your butt keeping the curve in your spine then grab a pile of leaves and just plop them into the basket or bin.


Another key technique that you can use to save your back is the Leg-Rake Technique. This technique is for people with excellent stability and not for the average person. I personally use the Leg-Rake Technique which I discovered for saving my own back.

Leg -Rake Bagging Technique: Small to Medium Piles of Leaves


No forward bending so saves your Lower back


  • Get as close to the pile of leaves as possible or in the middle of the leaves.
  • Get the basket or bin right beside the pile of leaves
  • Use your leg to pinch the leaves against the rake.  Lift the leg and rake and plop it in the basket/bin.  It doesn’t work as well with bags of leaves.


If you have a lot of leaves you probably do need to use compost bags and recycling bags. I usually end of up using as many baskets and bins as possible before moving onto bags.

Combine the Techniques: For Large Piles of Leaves


  • Use the Butt lifting Technique I mentioned earlier
  • When the pile is smaller use the Leg-Rake technique

Prevent Injuries and Keep These Two Points in Mind


Overfilling will make your container heavier increasing the likelihood that you will put out your low back.


Putting the bag over your shoulders is a bad idea Your twist and usually bend forward.  If there aren’t too many sharp objects in the bag or on the ground I tend to drag the bag or use the wagon that I used to drag around my son.

Prevent A Heart Attack


People that don’t exercise on a regular basis and past middle age are more likely to have a heart attack. The perfect combination is if you go out raking hard after a heavy Thanksgiving meal.  I recommend taking a break every 1/2 hour.

Pile The Leaves Away From The Side Of The Road


Kids love to hide in piles of leaves. People have parked on these piles of leaves by the side of the road causing serious injury and even death according to Dr. Oz. This probably only happens on roads with no curb on the side of the road.

Compost Don’t Burn


Don’t burn the leaves, compost them yourself or put them out for the city to recycle them back into useful material. It’s better than putting it out in the trash.

Stretch Afterwards


It’s more important to stretch afterward to prevent soreness.


Stretch your:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstraings
  • Chest
  • Shoulders


Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.








Dr Ken Nakamura

Who is Dr. Ken? I’m a father, spouse, chiropractor, and I love what I do! I created Bodi Empowerment to bring you and everyone-else safe and effective methods for self-treatment by basing my articles on research to everything I can. Still many parts will be based on 18 years of experience, seminars, and collaboration with other health experts; which means you will get opinions as well. Sometimes my articles won’t agree with what is currently accepted, but I am not here to please everyone. I’m here to empower you through the knowledge that I give you. Dr. Ken works at Rebalance Sports Medicine in downtown, Toronto.

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