Raking Leaves Without Aggravating Arthritis Pain

Grant Cooper Health Guide
  • Is raking leaves bad for my knees or lower back?


    This is one of my favorite times of year. The air is crisp and the leaves are turning color. In just as week or so, kids (and some adults) will be dressing in costumes and asking for candy. Football teams have taken to the field and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is in sight. If we haven't already, some of us will soon be picking up our rakes and gathering the fallen leaves. If you have osteoarthritis in your knees or other joints, you may be worried about raking your leaves. Is it safe to get out there and rake?

    The most important thing to realize about raking leaves and, to a greater extent, shoveling snow, is that these are physical activities. As such, they require a warm-up period and special attention to good form. Depending on how hard you are working while you are raking leaves, a small cool down period consisting of a slow walk may be helpful.

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    Of course, before participating in any new exercise, including raking leaves or shoveling snow, talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so. If it is safe for you to rake leaves, pay attention to your breathing. If the leaves are wet, realize that it is going to be a more strenuous exercise (because the leaves will be heavier) than if they are dry. Don't hold your breath while raking the leaves.

    Good raking form includes:

    • Take a brief warm up walk for 5-10 minutes before starting to rake.
    • Don't rake too many leaves at once. Rake them in small batches.
    • Continue to breathe. Never hold your breath as this can lead to increased blood pressure.
    • Bend at the knees and use your legs to lift. Do not bend at the hips and use your lower back to lift.
    • Don't reach too far out in front of you to gather more leaves. Use small raking strokes, not large ones.
    • Take a break every 20 minutes and go for another walk to give your hands and arms a rest.
    • If you experience any pain, stop and call your doctor. Raking should not be a painful experience.


    Raking is a wonderful outdoor activity. If your doctor says it is safe for you to do so, I think it is a great way to get some exercise. Just please remember to be safe about it.


    Happy autumn everyone!


Published On: October 14, 2008