Snow shoveling is the number one cause of winter back pain. When you consider that a shovelful of snow weighs 5 to 7 pounds, you realize how much weight you have to lift to clear your sidewalk or driveway – on average, several hundred pounds!
There is a right way and a wrong way to shovel snow – paying attention to your technique can make a big difference in how you feel the next day.
As with any project, the prep work is the most important. These tips will help keep your back in top shape:
Don’t Let The Snow Pile Up:
If the weather report calls for several days of snow, frequent shoveling will allow you to move smaller amounts of snow at once.
Choosing The Right Snow Shovel:
- Choose a shovel with a curved handle. A curved handle will allow you keep your body upright, rather than hunched over. If the handle is too short, however, this “ergonomic” feature won’t help.
- Choose a shovel with a plastic blade, which is lighter than either steel or aluminum.
- Your shovel should be about chest high on you, allowing you to keep your back straight when lifting. A shovel with a short staff forces you to bend more to lift the load.
- Spray your shovel with Teflon first, to stop snow from sticking to it. The more snow that stays on the shovel, the heavier it gets and the more chance for injury – and frustration.
Warm Up Before Shoveling Snow:
Before tackling any strenuous activity take the time to warm up. A tight, stiff body is asking for injury. A 10 minute walk followed by a few minutes of stretching should do it.
Dress For The Weather:
Layered clothing works better to keep your muscles warm and your skin dry so you don’t get chilled. You may want to invest in clothing designed specifically for winter outdoor activity or layer garments made of natural fibers.
Push The Snow – Don’t Throw It:
- Always push the snow to the side rather than throwing it to the side, or over your shoulder.
- If you have to lift the snow, bend your knees, and use your legs to do the lifting. Do not twist your body – pivot your feet so that you can place the snow where you want it to go without twisting your body.
Know When To Rest – Take A Break:
- If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and take a rest. Shake out your arms and legs. Drink a glass of water or juice. Even though it is cold outside your body needs plenty of fluids.
- Stop shoveling 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, you should see a chiropractor.
If you have chest pain that is severe, see a medical doctor immediately.
Photo Credits: Phaz