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.
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.