Shoveling Tips to Prevent Back Pain and Injuries

With early winter coming into view, gardening tasks move away from planting and  clean-up chores to (the dreaded) shoveling of snow. Here are some important tips from your NEX Wellness Chiropractor on how to prevent injuries, including back pain and muscle soreness, when the weather turns cold.

Snow Shoveling

As with raking leaves, using the most appropriate equipment, warming up, and paying attention to proper form will go a long way to preventing strains and injuries when shoveling snow this winter.

Warm up

In colder weather, this means walking in place inside and/or venturing outside for a short walk around the block with layered warm clothing. Bundling up will help prevent muscles from tightening. While rare, there is some evidence linking heart attacks with sudden aerobic and weight-lifting exercise in the cold, due to the constriction of arteries and vessels, so warming up and keeping warm is doubly important.

Wear snow boots. Proper snow boots with good traction (and spikes if needed) will help prevent falls and serious injury. It’s well worth the investment!

Choose the shoveling tool that’s right for you

Good ergonomics are essential, so select your shovel carefully. Be sure to use a shovel with a curved handle, as this will help keep your back straighter as you work. Plastic is preferred over metal since it is lighter, putting less strain on the spine. And if you live in a location that is particularly snowy, consider purchasing a snowblower (a bonus — your less able-bodied neighbours would be very grateful for the help).

Use proper technique

When you grip the shovel, keep your hands at least 30 cm apart. This increases your leverage while reducing the strain on your body. Aim to push the show rather than lifting it. But if you do have to lift it, keep the shovel close to your body and squat with your legs, keeping the back straight — no bending at the waist, twisting or rotating.

Do a little at a time. Don’t try to remove deep snow all at once. Wet snow in particular can be very heavy. 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off (to do some gentle stretching for your back, arms and legs) is a good rule of thumb.

As with any physical task, know your limits and don’t exceed them. If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance. For minor low back pain or other injuries, rest up and apply heat and/or ice to the affected area(s). For treatment of back pain and other musculo-skeletal injuries, consult your chiropractor.

Your NEX Wellness chiropractor in Burlington and Binbrook uses a variety of lighter touch chiropractic techniques to help you keep your spine, muscles and joints healthy; manage pain and injuries, if they occur; and suggest preventative and therapeutic exercises. Book your appointment today.

Submitted by Jerry Balice of Nex Wellness

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