Protect against Low Back Strains When Shoveling Snow
The winter months are upon us once again and in many parts of the country that means shoveling snow. I live in Arizona now and don’t expect much snow, but I remember shoveling lots of snow growing up in Utah and how difficult it can be especially when it is wet and heavy. So in preparation for some snow shoveling, let’s look at how you can avoid injury, because unless you live in Arizona like me, you won’t be able to avoid the snow.
Snow shoveling can be great physical exercise. However, low back strains and injuries from slips and falls suffered while removing snow sends many individuals to the emergency room every year. So whether you like the prospect of a winter heaven or groan whenever you listen to a wintertime weather advisory, take some precautions before venturing out into the ice and snow following a storm.
6 Tips to help protect against low back strains and various other injuries when shoveling snow:
1) Warm up prior to grabbing the snow shovel. Get those muscle nice and loose before you begin straining them while lifting snow. Just 5-10 mins of light indoor physical exercise before shoveling will help you loosen up your muscle tissues and help prevent low back strains. Think jumping jacks, jogging in place, shoulder circles, performing sit to stand in a chair, some light twisting exercises can all work to warm your body up.
2) Stretch prior to and after shoveling. Stretching muscles prior to shoveling snow certainly assist you in avoiding low back strains, shoulder injuries and other muscular strains. Make sure that your stretching includes: shoulders, hamstrings, and low back as these are muscles that are under the most strain while shoveling and are therefore more prone to injury.
3) Take caution when lifting heavy snow. Push snow around with the shovel rather than lifting it when feasible. When lifting, you know the rule – bend your legs and lift with the larger muscles in your legs vs. your low back. When you have to lift the snow, it’s safer to lift lighter loads even if it requires more shoveling.
4) Take breaks! If you’re out of shape (you know who you are), don’t overdo it. This is where people make a mistake and for some, it costs them their life (heart attack). Shoveling snow is at least a medium cardio and resistance exercise so rest as needed. Take time to stand up straight and bend backwards to stretch out the back muscles that you are straining while bending over repetitively.
5) Wear boots with slip-resistant soles. Some of the most serious injuries that occur while shoveling happen when people slip and fall on the ice. Skull fractures, herniated discs, pulled muscles and damaged bones take place when people fall while shoveling snow. Slip-resistant boots or snow cleats can help you stay on your feet. Sprinkling rock salt after shoveling can also keep ice from forming and protect any visitor that may stop by to visit.
6) Don’t be cheap! Purchase an ergonomic shovel to reduce the amount of bending needed to lift snow. If you are shoveling a lot of snow over the winter months, it may be wise to invest in a snow blower to help protect against low back strains that occur when shoveling. Just be aware you may become your neighbors new best friend.
To Your Success!
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The information included in this blog post and on this site are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physical therapist-patient relationship.