One of the most common causes of low back pain in winter is shoveling snow. How can you keep from becoming another statistic? Here are some tips to help you protect your back when you are digging out your walkway and driveway from the next big snowstorm.
The Right Equipment Makes a Difference
If you think all shovels are created equal, guess again. Having the right tool for the job can go a long way in determining how you feel when you are done (and the next morning, for that matter). When picking out a shovel, here are a few things to look for:
- Look for an ergonomic shovel. That usually means a curved handle. This will help to minimize the amount of bending you will have to do.
- Adjustable handles are also effective. This too minimizes bending.
- Don’t forget you are lifting the shovel over and over as well as the snow. That means a lighter shovel significantly reduces the total weight you have to lift.
- Push shovels will also allow you to minimize the amount of lifting you have to do.
Get Warmed Up
Jumping right into shoveling without warming up a little first is a good way to strain a muscle with one of the first throws. Gentle stretching and even a little cardio to get the blood flowing are always a good idea before heading out to shovel.
The first thing to consider is whether or not you can avoid lifting altogether. A push shovel can really save your back. It may mean making more trips outside during a big storm to clear the snow before there is too much to push, but that could really be of benefit in the long run. If you have to lift snow to clear it, follow these guidelines.
- Never throw snow over your shoulder. Always face the direction you are tossing the snow. Even twisting to the side is going to increase the risk of injury.
- Bend at the hips and knees. Always keep your back as straight as possible when lifting.
- Don’t try to lift a load of snow that is too heavy for you. That means smaller shovels full if snow is wetter.
- It’s always better to walk a shovelful to where you want to deposit it rather than tossing it.
What to Do if You Feel Pain
If you feel pain, like a muscle pull or other damage, stop shoveling immediately. If you really have to get somewhere, it may be best just to pay a neighborhood kid to take care of the driveway for you.
While it may be tough to accept, as you get older, you may want to think about investing in a snow blower rather trying to shovel.
Hopefully, by following the tips above, you can avoid any emergency trips to the chiropractor this winter; but if the need for emergency chiropractic care does arise, Dr. Ward is always available with same day appointments.