Posted by Dr. Steven Kennedy
Doctor of Chiropractic, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
One of the most common causes of back injuries during the winter months is snow removal. Using improper body mechanics can lead to painful muscle strain or even more serious problems such as disc herniation. You may think you are tough, but trust me, even the toughest people can literally fall to their knees. I know, as a chiropractor for over 26 years, I’ve had to pick them up and put them back together again. To increase your chances of staying pain-free the next time the snow falls, the following are some helpful tips:
Ergonomic Snow Shovels
Shoveling with a curved handle or handle with an adjustable length can minimize bending. Also, lightweight shovels mean you’re lifting less weight.
Warm Up Thoroughly!
Cold, tight muscles are more injury prone than warm, flexible muscles. So, get your blood pumping with a brisk 5-10 minute walk or other warm-up activities before stretching your lower back and hamstrings. Lastly, give yourself a big hug for an upper back stretch before picking up the shovel.
Take Your Time
Take a look at the amount of snow and tailor your strategy ahead of time, based on the amount of snow and its density. Make pathways or take snow off the top in layers if you’re dealing with heavier snowfall in order to reduce your load. And, NEVER be afraid to take a break!
Use Ergonomically Correct Lifting Techniques
When lifting or throwing snow is necessary:
- Always try to push the snow to the side without hunching instead of lifting it and throwing it.
- Face towards the direction you are lifting/throwing and avoid twisting
- Bend at the knees and hips, NOT the back
- Push your chest out to keep your back straight
- For heavier loads, put one hand as close to the blade as possible
- Keep the heaviest part of the shovel close to your body
- Limit your arm extension when throwing snow
Hopefully, these tips will help prevent any of the typical injuries that can occur with snow shoveling. But if you do find yourself in any pain or discomfort following your next snow shovel, give our chiropractic office a call. We’re usually able to accommodate same-day appointments to get your symptoms reviewed, initially treated and set a customized path to head you down the road to a full recovery.