Avoid Back Pain with Smarter Shoveling

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Research shows 1,000 people end up in Emergency Departments each year after snow shoveling, with the majority of those visits are for back injuries. Snow shoveling is one of the most common causes of back injuries during the winter months. However, this type of injury is preventable if you know the best ways to remove snow without straining the back. The following tips can help you avoid low back injuries during the snowy winter season.

Warm Up Thoroughly

Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. You can warm up your muscles by briskly walking for a few minutes. Then, stretch your large muscles on your back, preferably with dynamic stretching by taking the muscles through full range of motion.

Use Ergonomic Lifting Techniques

Whenever possible, push the snow rather than lifting it. When lifting snow is necessary, make sure to use ergonomic lifting techniques: Bend at the hips and not the lower back. Then, bend with your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight. Keep your loads light and avoid twisting the back to move the snow to a new location. Always pivot your body to face the new location.

Switch Between Lifting and Throwing Snow and Pushing and Plowing Snow

Doing activity repetitively over time can lead to muscle fatigue, discomfort and even damage to the muscles and ligaments. This is why it is best to break up activities while shoveling.

Pick the Right Snow Shovel

An ergonomic snow shovel can help take some stress off your back. A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length can minimize painful bending. Small, lightweight plastic blades can also help reduce the amount of weight you are moving.

If it’s possible, using a snow blower can be a better alternative to shoveling. If you have a significant history of lower back issues or cardiac issues, it’s best to delegate shoveling to someone else.

Get Ambas, P.T., is a physical therapist at MidMichigan Health.

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