Each season has its own most common yard work chores and with them come their own typical aches and pains. The good news is that those aches and pains are usually avoidable.
This time of the year it is not uncommon to get calls from people who complain of one-sided upper back and neck pain from doing something as simple as raking the leaves on their lawn.
The reason why is that this is an asymmetrical, one-sided activity that we don't do all that frequently and therefore are not in shape for it. And, when we do, it causes asymmetrical muscle imbalances and instability in our body that twists us, ever-so-slightly, out of alignment - usually to our pain and discomfort.
As you rake with your right hand held high up the rake handle and your left hand lower on the handle, with you pulling the rake from your left side to your right, the band of muscles on the right side of your lower back must get tighter than their counterparts on the left side, pulling your pelvis out of balance. Your right Trapezius and Romboid in your upper back and shoulder area also tighten up.... all while the same muscles on the left side of your body are relatively slack and mostly uninvolved.
These imbalances start a cascade of events - creating a twist in the pelvis, spine and neck with an ultimate "jamming" of various spinal joints followed by irritation of one nerve or another.
The result is you are going to be in pain that night or tomorrow.
Yes - Advil will make it all feel better but you will still be out of balance - and living on Advil.
Why not avoid the pain all-together?
1) Do the following exercises before raking, stop mid-job and repeat, and again, when you're done.
Use the weights listed or more if you can but always stay within your typical ability.
BTW...It is not necessary to spend an hour at the gym before you rake your lawn, just wake up / warm up the "antagonist" muscles for the job you're about to do.
Do 15 -20 reps of Lats using approximately 60 lbs. If no lat bar, substitute with several pull-ups.
Do 15 -20 pushups or cable-flys or bench press using approximately 60 lbs.
2) Reverse the positioning of your hands on the rake often - practice becoming ambidextrous.
It feels clumsy at first but you will get better at it with practice.
3) Don't just rake endlessly - alternate tasks and do some bagging once in a while.
It won't be long now and we'll be shoveling snow - that's a reaching, lifting and throwing job. Think about what are the antagonist muscles to balance that operation. Start getting ready now...