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Four Techniques to Remember When Shoveling This Winter

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!

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