Shovel away your low back pain this winter! Snow shoveling often leads to low back injuries, so it is important to practice proper shoveling techniques to avoid these injuries.
4 TIPS FOR SHOVELING THIS WINTER SEASON
1. PROPER STRETCHING:
- Warm Up: Think of shoveling like exercise; never start shoveling without a quick warm up! Get your heart rate up with a short walk or jog on the tread-mill or with a bike ride on a stationary bike.
- Stretch: Focus on stretching the areas that are most engaged during shoveling: hamstrings, shoulders, and low back.
- Stretch #1: Touch your fingers to the ground (or as far as you can go without bending your knees)
- Stretch #2: Raise your arms straight above your head and slowly stretch your neck on each side.
2. SELECT THE RIGHT SHOVEL
- Sharp Blade: Just like a good knife, a sharp shovel blade allows you to move the most amount of snow efficiently.
- Light Weight: A light snow shovel will alleviate much of the weight required for lifting (don’t underestimate the weight of snow by itself – it can get dangerously heavy).
- Correct Length: When choosing the length of the shovel, make sure you are not bending forward, or leaning back too much.
- Pick a shovel that has an adjustable handle length (so you can share the duty with other family members!).
- Before purchasing your shovel, try it out at the store by simulating the act of shoveling.
3. LIFTING TECHNIQUES
- Only lift when absolutely necessary! If you can push the snow to the side for a plow to pick up or for it to melt.
- Bend at the hips and knees – never the low back.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight; Don’t twist your back when changing positions
- Position one hand on the handle and the other near the shovel blade.
- Don’t throw large amounts of snow from the shovel; rather walk to the location where you want the snow deposited.
- Wear boots with proper gripping and apply sand or salt on the snow to prevent falls.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
- Just like when you lift weights, take breaks during sets, ie; shovel for 10-15 minutes, and then take a 5 minute break.
- Let your body dictate how many breaks you need and always stretch during them.
- STOP shoveling if you feel short of breath, dizzy, or experience chest pain. If these symptoms do not subside, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
- STOP if you experience sudden sharp low back pain or pain shooting into your legs.
Using these simple guidelines will help free your car, and your back pain!