Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | August 27, 2012

Blueberry Raking and Low-Back Pain. Is A Longer Rake The Answer?

Blueberry flowers

Blueberry flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maine is harvesting a huge crop of wild blueberries this year.  For the families, that means walking out and picking blueberries by hand.  But if you’re a serious blueberry picker, chances are you have a blueberry rake.

Rakes are available in the one-handed, two-handed and reverse handled varieties, and these are not your standard garden style rakes.  They look more like the top of an electric haircutting device if you happened to be a giant.

Maine harvests most of the wild blueberries in the world, and we have our own blueberry rake manufacturer:  Hubbard Rakes.  (There may be others, but I couldn’t find them online.)  Mr. Hubbard has worked with blueberry pickers to improve the strength of their rakes, so hopefully he will help create longer rakes.

Why?  Because using a longer rake means less back pain.  This according to a study at the University of Vermont, just released this past week.  When they tested workers using the regular short handled rake (SHR) vs. the newer long handled rake (LHR), the study found:  “Subjects used SHR for shorter work periods than LHR.”  That translates to fewer blueberries picked, because of increased back pain from stooping.

So let’s move toward a longer rake, less pain, and more blueberries.  More studies are necessary, but this is one improvement that really should be in the pipeline.


Responses

  1. I never knew too much about raking blueberries , but as what I read here, it definitely takes time and effort , and the right rake;)

  2. It’s an amazing process. So much of our food has become mechanized, it’s strange to think of hand-picked/raked as the only option. I heard that Maine will produce 97 million pounds this year.

  3. This is really interesting, but it makes perfect sense. What most people may not realize is that the one movement that puts more strain on the back more than anything is flexion and rotation at the same time (bending and twisting). So, if you’re using a shorter rake, that would naturally put you in this position. It makes sense that using a longer rake would prevent back pain.


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