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Back pain while shoveling

Snow Shoveling Safety

It’s that time of the year again where the weather is cold, and the snow shovels need to be dusted off.  Shoveling appears to be a simple task with little risk, however, there are in fact many risks that most are not aware of if you are shoveling incorrectly.  Poor technique or preparation can cause a lot of stress to be put on your lower back and heart causing back pain and heart attacks. If you are suffering from heart issues, it may be best to sit this one out or ask for help from a loved one or friend, especially in heavier snow accumulations.

Preparation

Make sure to get a good stretch in to warm up the muscles and get your blood pumping.  With the cold, it can be hard for muscles to warm up and therefore remain tight, predisposing you to a strain or sprain before you even lift the shovel.

It is extremely important to dress warm.  As was just discussed, we need to keep our body warm to perform the task at hand to avoid any injuries.  Dressing in layers allows the body temperatures to be regulated throughout the activity by providing the option to shed some of those layers as the body warms up.  The key is to stay comfortably warm.  Wearing a stocking hat is also highly recommended due to the head releasing a large amount of heat from the body.  This will help keep the heat in and keep muscles loose.

Picking a shovel seems like an easy task but with all the designs out there these days, it is important to choose the right one for you.  Shovels with curved or adjustable handles are recommended to help minimize the amount of bending and lifting needed.  Standard shovels require more lifting which will put more stress on our back.  The weight of the shovel (before it is full of snow) is also important.  The lighter weight shovels will help minimize the stress that the body has to lift.  There are shovel options where they are made out of heavy-duty plastic with a metal tip on the edge.  These are ideal because they are light and can break through ice and compacted snow easily.

Technique

Always push the snow whenever possible instead of lifting.  Pushing creates minimal amounts of stress on your back compared to lifting and twisting.  If you have to lift, make sure to square up, feet apart, and face the snow, while bending with your hips and knees instead of bending with your back.  Never throw the snow!  Throwing causes muscles to tighten up, increasing the risk of injury.

It is important to keep hands at least 12 inches apart on the shovel, with your non-dominant hand closer to the blade of the shovel.  The further apart your hands are, the more evenly distributed the weight of the shovel and snow is.  If you have to move snow and it can’t be pushed, it is important to keep the load of the shovel as close to your body as possible to not move your center of gravity.  When lifting snow, the loads should be kept light.

Snow blower

The best option for removing any amount of snow will always be using a snow blower.  They create minimal amounts of stress on the body.  Before operating a snow blower, be sure to read the manual on how to properly use it.

If you do injure yourself, visit our services page to see if we are the right fit for you.

References and More Information

https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/snow-shoveling-techniques-prevent-low-back-injuries

https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/tips-snow-shovelinghow-avoid-back-pain

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