Saving Your Back While Shoveling

One com­mon cause of back injuries dur­ing the win­ter is snow removal. The wrong body mechan­ics while shov­el­ing snow can put stress on the lower back and lead to a painful mus­cle strain, or more seri­ous back injuries, such as a her­ni­ated disc. A few tips can help you avoid back injuries dur­ing the snowy season.

Start by choos­ing the right shovel. A shovel with a curved han­dle or adjustable han­dle length will min­i­mize improper bend­ing by requir­ing you to bend your knees slightly and min­i­mally arch your back, all while keep­ing the shovel blade on the ground. A small, light­weight, plas­tic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are moving.</.p>

Remem­ber to pace your­self. Shov­el­ing small amounts of snow fre­quently is less stren­u­ous than shov­el­ing a large pile at once. In deep snow, remove a few inches at a time, rather than attempt­ing to shovel the full depth at once. When shov­el­ing, take a break every 10 15 min­utes or if you feel over­worked at any point. Use this oppor­tu­nity to stretch your arms, shoul­ders, and back.

Use proper lift­ing tech­niques. When­ever pos­si­ble, push the snow aside rather than lift­ing it. When lift­ing the snow shovel is nec­es­sary, make sure to use ergonomic lift­ing tech­niques: bend at the hips, not the low back, keep the load close to your body, and avoid twist­ing, reach­ing or toss­ing the snow. Grip the shovel with your hands about 12 inches apart to pro­vide greater sta­bil­ity and min­i­mize the chances of injur­ing your low back.

Slip­pery con­di­tions while shov­el­ing can lead to slip­ping and/or falls and strains that can injure your back. Shoes or boots with good treads will help to min­i­mize injuries from slip­ping. Spread­ing sand, rock salt, or kitty lit­ter on your side­walk or dri­ve­way will increase trac­tion and reduce the like­li­hood of slip­ping on the ice.

These tips can help to make snow removal less of a strain on your low back. Keep­ing these guide­lines in mind, as well as reg­u­lar adjust­ments and prompt chi­ro­prac­tic care if you expe­ri­ence an injury, will lessen the chances of devel­op­ing new back prob­lems or wors­en­ing your low back pain while shov­el­ing, and hope­fully make your win­ter a health­ier and more enjoy­able expe­ri­ence. Please con­tact River Val­ley Chi­ro­prac­tic in Black­foot for any more ques­tions on back safety or to sched­ule an appoint­ment at 208–643-9023.