Proper Shoveling Tips to Prevent Low Back Pain

80% of Americans will suffer from low back pain at some time in their lives. Unfortunately, when the winter snow flies and snow removal is necessary, we see an increased number of people coming into our office for this problem. Take a few steps to prevent this from happening to you this year.

  1. Most people are out shoveling and snowblowing first thing in the morning before they or their spine have a chance to warm up for the day. Optimally, you should wait 30 minutes to 2 hours after getting out of bed before doing any strenuous activities or stretching. If you are unable to do this before getting started, then first take a warm shower and/or go for a brief 5-10 minute light walk.
  2. It is easiest on your back if, instead of doing any lifting, you simply push the shovel in front of your body, making sure the shovel is in the center of your body, holding it with both hands.
  3. Lifting, bending and twisting motions create the most stress to the back. If lifting is required, take lighter loads of snow on your shovel. Instead of lifting and twisting, lift by bending your knees and keep your back straight (not arched or hunched over). Move your feet simultaneously into the direction you’re going to throw the snow. Do this with each scoop. It may take you a little longer, but your back will thank you!
  4. Take advantage of an ergonomic shovel. They have curved handles to make it easier on your body.
  5. Dress warmly and in layers. Shivering will increase the stress on your back.
  6. Forget the back-support belt. Studies show this only gives a false sense of security and can oftentimes lead to further and more severe injury.
  7. Feeling a little pain in your back after shoveling? ICE for 20 minutes, NOT heat.
  8. DON’T ASSUME THE PAIN IS ONLY A MUSCLE PULL. THE FASTER THE CAUSE(S) OF YOUR PAIN ARE EVALUATED AND TREATED, THE MORE SPEEDY THE RECOVERY. Pain medications are a good band-aid, but do not correct anything. This leaves you open to greater injury in the future. We’ve all heard of that person who threw their back out picking up a pencil off the floor. The pencil did not cause their back pain. It was a loss of normal function between the muscles, joints, discs and spinal vertebrae. This loss of function rarely happens over night. Each injury builds upon the next until the body can no longer compensate and symptoms like pain occur. As a chiropractic and wellness clinic, we are specialists in treating lower back pain! A thorough examination looking at the spine, muscle imbalances and in some cases diet, will help us to tailor a treatment program to you designed to correct the cause of your back pain.