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Be Careful Shoveling Snow! Tips to Avoid Back Pain

It’s that time of year again! It is finally here... SNOW!

Though the first snow is exciting for many residents in the Greater Lafayette area, when the first significant snowfall occurs here in the Midwest we inevitably see an influx of people calling in with back pain due to shoveling snow. It’s just one of those things that has to be done.

Most of the time the problems seem to occur because we are trying to get it done as quickly as possible so we can get back inside where it is warm and cozy rather than paying attention to how we are using our bodies to get it done.

Whenever we are bending and twisting with anything heavy, we need to be very careful. Bending and twisting with a load puts a lot of pressure on the discs in the lower back. Combine that with the exertion of throwing the snow off of the shovel, and we put our spine under a lot of pressure and are even prone to injury. Common injuries we see are aggravation of previous injuries, disc irritations, sacroiliac joint strains, and muscle strains. Recognizing the low back is especially susceptible to strain or injury; it would be prudent to review steps to prevent injury.Snow shoveling can be compared to weight lifting, and in some cases, the aerobic aspect of this activity is similar to a workout on a treadmill!

To help your body function on demand, consider the following tips:

  • Warm up before you start shoveling! Just like you would before any other workout, it is imperative to warm up your body, especially your back before you begin shoveling. Shoveling can strain weak or “cold” muscles throughout your back, arms and legs if you have not properly warmed up.

  • Layer your clothing. Make sure you have planned accordingly with regards to your attire. Not only will this help keep you warm but it will also help keep the muscles you just warmed up warm and flexible while you are getting the job done.

  • Salt. If the ground is icy or slick, spread sand or salt over the area to help create foot traction. Be aware that some areas may be uneven and could cause you to slip, trip, or fall.

  • The sooner, the better. Fresh snow is lighter in weight—so clear snow as soon as it has fallen. Snow becomes dense as it compacts on the ground. Wet snow is much heavier.

  • Plan ahead. Make sure you have plenty of time to tackle shoveling before you have to leave for work. You do not want to shovel snow in a rush, that is exactly how you get injured.

  • Technique, technique, technique.

  • When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to throw it. This will help you avoid sudden twisting and turning motions while you have a heavy pile of snow on the end of the shovel.

  • Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back- you know the common saying, “lift with your legs, not with your back”, this saying has never been more true!

  • Just like with a golf club, hand placement on the shovel handle is very important! Don’t put your hands close to one another. Create some distance between the hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.

  • Take breaks when you need them. It is not nearly as important to get the job done quickly as it is to protect your body in the process

If you are reading this blog a little late and have already hurt yourself or simply need chiropractic care for other reasons, we are only a call away. The sooner we are able to address the problem, the better the outcome. Stay safe out there and don’t hesitate to call if you need us!

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