It’s that time of year again – we may not get outside or exercise as much in the winter, but when we do, it’s to shovel snow! We’ve had a few good dumpings already, and I’m sure there will be plenty more before spring rolls around.
I often see patients come in after a snowfall with low back injuries due to shoveling.
Here are 6 simple tips to reduce your risk of injuring your back while shoveling:
- Don’t let the snow pile up
- If the weather report calls for several days (or several hours) of heavy snow, shovel more frequently so you can move smaller amounts of snow at once. The lighter the load, the less risk of injury.
- Pick the right shovel
- Use a lightweight pusher-type shovel. If you are using a metal shovel, spray it with Teflon first, so snow won’t stick to it.
- Push, don’t throw:
- Loading and twisting the low back simultaneously is the perfect recipe for low back pain! Always push the snow to the side rather than throwing it. This avoids sudden twisting or turning movements.
- Bend your knees
- If you have to lift a shovelful of snow, keep your back straight and use your knees as well as leg and arm muscles to push and lift.
- Warm up
- Before any strenuous activity, take about 10-15 minutes to warm. This can be as simple as a quick walk or jumping jacks followed by some simple stretches.
- Take a break
- If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and take a rest. Shake out your arms and legs. Stop shovelling immediately if you feel chest pain or back pain!
If you have back pain that is severe or that persists for more than a day after shoveling, see a chiropractor. If you have chest pain that is severe, see a medical doctor immediately.
Remember, getting your spine adjusted regularly (yes, even when you don’t have any pain) helps your spine and nervous system to function at its best, which helps prevent injuries as well!