Snow shoveling time again! How can we avoid back injury?
Snow shoveling can be one of the most strenuous things many of us do. It is also a common cause of low back injuries. We think of snow shoveling as a household task, but it is more akin to weight lifting!
Many aspects of snow shoveling lead to the risk of low back injury: the potentially heavy weight involved, repetitive bending and twisting, icy slippery conditions, and lack of warm up. If we are prepared and educated, we can avoid or limit most of these risks.
Our bodies are more easily injured if we exert ourselves with “cold” muscles and tissues. Working up gradually to any activity stimulates our circulation to increase and our muscles and tissues to warm. They will stretch and respond better once warmed up. A few minutes’ walk up the street first gets us ready to tackle the shoveling job.
A key thing to keep in mind while shoveling is to use a smaller shovel if you have to lift the snow out of the way. The large scoop type shovels are really only safe for pushing snow. Especially if the snow is wet and heavy, a small shovel is definitely a better choice.
Curved shaft shovels are also a potentially smarter choice of tool than the regular ones. Studies have shown that using this type of shovel reduces the amount of bending required and, importantly, reduces the mechanical load in the back when lifting the shovel.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to limit twisting and use your legs while lifting the snow. Twisting while lifting is a very common way that the back is injured. To avoid this, lift the snow and toss it directly in front instead of off to the side. Keep your hips and shoulders square; if you have to turn, turn your whole body. While lifting try to use the larger stronger leg muscles instead of using the much smaller back muscles; that is, bend at the hips and knees, then straighten them to lift the weight of the shovel and snow.
To avoid slips or falls, spread some sand or salt first. Shovel sooner while the snow is lighter and less compact. Above all, pace yourself. As we tire, we become more at risk for an “accident”. Once the shoveling job is safely done, then you can enjoy the snow! Best wishes for a safe and fun winter season from Best Health Physiotherapy.