With winter soon approaching, so does the daunting task of snow shoveling. The snow is picturesque; however managing it can be very harmful to your body. In 2004, back pain was the number one musculoskeletal related reason for emergency room visits. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2005, nearly 76,000 injuries were related to the use of snow shovels and snow blowers. Prevention is the key for maintaining a healthy back. With the utilization of good technique and proper breathing, back pain with snow management can be a thing of the past. Listed below are several tips for avoiding back injuries from snow shoveling:
Tips to Avoid Back Pain When Snow Shoveling:
-Consider a warm up of a short walk to help prepare the tissues for the workload.
-Lift smaller loads of snow as this will decrease the strain on your body.
-Utilize your legs, and keep your back straight when snow shoveling.
-Avoid twisting your back when throwing the snow. Always face the direction of the pile to where you are dumping.
-Exhale on the lifting or exerting phase of shoveling. This will decrease the pressure on your back and abdomen. It will also help with blood pressure maintenance. Utilize a shovel with a long enough handle that will allow you to keep your posture straight.
-Keep the load as close to your body (just below navel) as possible.
-Take frequent breaks when shoveling. A short walk with maintenance of an “up and tall” posture with a slight arch in the back will help counteract the repetitive forward bending of the spine that accompanies this task.
-If you must lift a heavy load, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible. The other hand can be placed higher up on the handle.
-Do not get courageous. If you have a pre-existing injury, it may get worse with snow shoveling.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your lower back, or level of readiness for snow shoveling, please contact your physical therapist or physician. Make this winter a healthy and pain free season to enjoy.