Protect Your Back While Shoveling Snow
It’s cold outside and the snow is starting to pile up. You’ve strapped on your boots, wrapped your scarf tight and pulled on your gloves. You’ve dusted off that snow shovel, and you are ready to tackle the snowy sidewalks.
But beware – snow shoveling is the number one cause of back pain during the winter months. Luckily there are a few basic things you can do to prevent spending your days on the couch with an aching back:
- Prior to shoveling, the most important thing you can do is warm up. You wouldn’t play a game of basketball without stretching, so don’t start your shoveling without warming up your muscles. A cold muscle is an easily hurt muscle, so walk around for a little to warm up. Stretch your hamstrings, arms, legs and back. Five to ten minutes of stretching before shoveling can go a long way to prevent injuries.
- Take frequent breaks. Although you probably will want to get the shoveling done as quickly as possible, taking frequent breaks will help protect your back. Shovel for 15 to 20 minutes then take a break. Stretch your hamstrings and lower back, and take some time to walk around.
- Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. Try to avoid lifting the snow, but if you do have to lift a shovel-full of snow, lift with your knees and hips instead of putting the strain on your back. And don’t twist and throw the snow. Lift the shovel and walk the snow over to your dump pile. Most back injuries occur from twisting and wrenching your back while throwing the snow.
- Plastic shovels are lighter and better for your back than metal shovels. An ergonomic shovel is the best tool to use, as the curved handle gives a different and better lifting angle.
- Switch hands often when shoveling. This way you’re not using the same muscles repetitively. And remember to keep your hands separated at a comfortable length on the handle. This can also relieve back strain.
- When finished shoveling, remember to stretch. Five minutes of stretching afterwards can go a long way to prevent muscle soreness.
If you do have back pain from shoveling, the best thing to do is to apply ice for the first 24 hours. This can minimize the soreness. Gentle stretches will also help the pain. Lie on your back and draw your knees up to your chest. Any pain that lasts more than a few days warrants a trip to the doctor.
Using a snow blower is always the best option for getting rid of all that nasty white stuff. But not all of us are lucky enough to own one. Following the tips above will help prevent back pain caused by Mother Nature’s wintery gift. Enjoy your winter!