It is no surprise that shoveling snow is one of the most common causes of low back pain in the U.S. In fact, today as I struggled with scooping up and tossing the wet, heavy snow, I thought to myself – “There must be a better way to do this, because it hurts!” After doing some digging it seems that there are some proper steps to take when shoveling to prevent causing low back pain or other back issues:
- Pick the right shovel!
Tools are usually the most important part of any project right? So why skimp when it comes to buying the right shovel! An ergonomic shovel can help take some of the effort out of your snow removal task. A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length may minimize painful bending, which may cause you back pain. In addition, a small, lightweight, plastic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are constantly moving.
- Keep warm.
Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity. To get your blood moving try stretching, running in place or going for a walk before shoveling.
- Use ergonomics:
SpineHealth.com suggests the following techniques to maintaining posture while shoveling snow:
- Always face towards the object you intend to lift (ie have your shoulders and hips both squarely facing it)
- Bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight
- Keep your loads light and do not lift an object that is too heavy for you
- If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique)
- Avoid twisting the back to move your object to its new location – always pivot your whole body to face the new direction
- Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity – do not extend your arms to throw the snow
- Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing
The above suggestions are for preventing low back pain caused by shoveling, if you already have a back injury or low back pain, you should consult with a health professional before even attempting to shovel.