6 Snow Shoveling Tips to Avoid Back Pain
It’s that time of year again: snow shoveling season. Winter weather remains one of the biggest culprits in back injuries and pain reported every year. In fact, over 70,000 people visit a specialist each year complaining of back injuries from shoveling snow and ice. Fortunately, however, shoveling doesn’t have to end in a trip to the doctor. Here are some useful tips to help prevent back pain and injury this winter.
Everyone’s heard it, but few practice it: lift with the legs, not the back. To safely lift a shovel full of snow, hinge at the hips, and use the legs and glutes to propel the weight upward. Always face the load squarely, making sure both the hips and shoulders are aligned. Keeping the load on the lighter side also reduces the chance of injury. It may take longer to shovel the driveway, but at least it won’t end in an injury. If possible, try to push snow out of the way rather than picking it up, as this can eliminate the possibility of any lifting strain.
Choose an Appropriate Shovel
Selecting a shovel with a lighter blade may help alleviate back pain. A light plastic blade can reduce the overall load and keep pain at bay. Ergonomic shovels are specifically designed to minimize bending and arching while shoveling, which lessens the chance of injury from performing these tasks. A curved or adjustable handle makes shoveling easier and reduces the chance of injury.
Warm Up the Back Muscles
Prior to shoveling, performing a few warm-up exercises can drastically reduce the chance of back injury. Cold, tight muscles are prone to injury, making a warm-up essential to the shoveling process. A brisk walk and a few minutes of lower back and hamstring stretches will improve mobility and prepare the muscles to perform more strenuous work.
Work at a Comfortable Pace
While it may be tempting to get the job done as quickly as possible, spreading the task over a longer period may be beneficial. Removing a small amount of snow each day can lessen the chance of strain or injury. Likewise, shoveling snow from the top down (a few inches at a time) instead of the whole depth will reduce the weight on the shovel and minimize the risk of injury. Taking short breaks every few minutes can also help to reduce the risks of injury from shoveling.
Wearing appropriate footwear is critical to avoiding injury. Boots with good tread can help prevent slips and falls, making them a necessary addition to outdoor winter gear. Sprinkling salt, sand, or kitty litter across flat surfaces where shoveling is needed can also help provide extra traction.
Employ a Snow Blower, If Possible
Using a snow blower instead of a shovel can drastically reduce the chance of injury. Both the legs and glutes may be used to propel the machine, making it much easier to keep the back neutral while working.
Keeping these tips in mind will help make snow shoveling less of a daunting chore. If your existing back pain is aggravated when you perform such chores, it may be necessary that you seek the medical attention of a local spine doctor. The pain experts at Marc Cohen Spine Institute have the experience and resources to identify the pain source and suggest treatment options. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.