As the colder weather rolls in, it’s important to learn the proper execution of a common winter activity that often leads to back injuries – shoveling snow. Snow shoveling can be compared to weight lifting and the aerobic aspect of this activity is similar to a treadmill workout. To prevent back injury and pain, consider the following tips:
1. Warm Up – In every type of exercise, it’s a good idea to warm up first. Warm muscles perform better than cold muscles. Take a brisk walk, march in place, or do any other type of full body activity to get blood flowing to the muscles. Don’t forget to stretch afterwards, especially your lower back and hamstring muscles.
2. Pick the right shovel – Choose one with a curved handle. They help you keep your back straighter reducing spinal stress. Your shovel should be chest-high. Any shorter, and it will cause you to bend more. Any taller, and the shovel will cause the snow to feel heavier. Also, consider a plastic shovel, as it will weigh less than a metal one.
3. Bend at the knees – not the waist or back. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs and do not twist your body.
4. Take breaks – These types of repetitive activities require you to take rests every 15 minutes. This will allow your muscles a chance to recover. Be sure to drink water and stretch too.
5. Lighten the load – It may make your task longer, but by picking up smaller portions of snow, you’ll save your back from a painful strain.
6. Wear proper footwear – Choose a boot with traction to reduce your chances of slipping. Winter weather slips and falls are also common causes of back injury.
7. Push snow – It’s easier to push snow out of the way, instead of lifting and transferring it. There are also types of shovels made specifically for pushing snow.
If, despite your best efforts, you still end up with lower back pain or injury, contact our office for an immediate appointment. With a little preparation and knowledge, you’ll decrease your chances of developing new back problems or worsening your low back pain while shoveling, and hopefully enjoy a pain-free winter season.