As we are heading into snow shoveling season, it is important that you take some care to avoid back pain!
The Good News: 15 minutes of snow shoveling is equivalent to Moderate Physical Activity according to the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health – seemingly not a bad thing as we are urged to engage in about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on a daily basis.
If you are trying to lose weight or burn some calories, snow shoveling is extremely efficient and requires your whole body to participate. With proper pacing and lifting of appropriate loads, one can truly turn 15 to 30 minutes of shoveling into a fantastic workout.
The Bad News: In 2006, the US Consumer Products Safety Commission reported 31,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, MD offices, clinics or other medical settings for injuries that occurred while removing snow manually.
Consider the following before you grab your shovel after a snowfall:
Warm-up! Before shoveling begins, take 5 minutes to warm-up by walking or marching in place. Stretch out your arms and legs. Warm muscles work more efficiently and are less likely to be injured.
- Wear boots that have sufficient tread allowing you to maintain your grasp to the surface beneath you. Sudden slips and loss of balance may lead to severe strains in the lower back.
- If possible, wait at least 2 hours before shoveling snow. Many disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc.
- Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than with your back.
- Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
- It is important to avoid excessive twisting and forward bending. Instead, you should bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so you are lifting with your back.
- Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back. Standing extension exercises will help reverse the excessive forward bending that occurs while shoveling: Stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips and bend backwards slightly for several seconds. Repeat as often as needed.
Listen to your body! Stop if you feel back pain or are short of breath.
With proper precautions and the correct snow-shoveling technique, injuries to the shoulders and lower back can be avoided.
If you have back pain as result of shoveling snow, we are here to help! Contact us for a free pain evaluation today!