Winter will be here before we know it, and in some parts of the country, that means snow is coming. With snow comes snow shoveling, which can lead to back pain if you’re not careful. Here are some tips on avoiding pain while shoveling snow.
1. Warm up first.
You might not think you need to warm up before shoveling snow. After all, it’s not as though you’re going to run a mile or play a football game. However, shoveling snow is physically a lot of work, and you might find the work a little easier if you get your blood flowing and stretch out first. You’re also less likely to strain your muscles if you do a quick warm-up first, rather than just going outside and shoveling.
2. Make sure you have the right gear.
Your shovel handle needs to be the right length for you–not too long or too short for you to use comfortably without having to bend too much. Some snow shovels have adjustable handles, so you can adjust the handle to the right length. Also, make sure the shovel isn’t too heavy for you. If you find it is already on the heavy side before you even start shoveling, you may need to look for a lighter shovel. Try a shovel with a plastic blade to reduce weight. You might also want to try an ergonomic snow shovel. The handle is bent in a way that makes it easier to shovel.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re wearing snow boots with good traction. The snow can get slippery, and any slip could result in an injury. You can also try putting down sand, rock salt, or cat litter on the sidewalk and driveway to increase the traction.
3. Push the snow aside whenever possible.
Use your shovel to push the snow to the side if you can. This saves your back the strain of having to lift the shovel. However, if you do have to lift the shovel…
4. Use proper lifting techniques.
Bend your knees, keeping your feet apart and your back straight, as though you are in a squatting stance. Avoid bending at the waist, and use your legs to do the lifting. Don’t scoop up so much snow that the load is too heavy for you. Try to hold the shovel with one hand on the handle, and the other as close to the shovel blade as possible to help you manage the weight. When dumping the snow, walk over to the area, bending again to place the snow in the new location. Avoid twisting the back or throwing the snow over your shoulder or to the side–this puts unnecessary strain on the back.
5. Start early, and take breaks often.
If possible, try to clear the snow early in the day. The longer you wait, the snow can pile up and be packed in heavily, making it more difficult for you to shovel. If you can, shovel throughout the day so the snow doesn’t pile up too much. If the snow is deep, remove a little off the top at a time, rather than trying to shovel the whole amount. Don’t try to rush and do it all at once. Try to take a small break every 15 minutes, or anytime you are starting to feel tired. You can use this time to stretch again to help keep your muscles limber.
With these tips, you should find that you have less back pain when shoveling snow. Listen to your body–if you are feeling strained or tired, it’s time to take a break! It’s better to take the extra time to prepare yourself and take breaks than to spend weeks with a hurt back. I wish you all a safe and happy winter season!