Snow Shoveling Tips to Reduce Back Injuries

by Rachel Laurendeau on June 6, 2012

Snow removal is a common cause of back injuries during the winter months. Improper shoveling techniques can put stress on the lower back, lead to muscle strain or even more serious back injuries.

Following these simple snow removal tips can help you get through the snowy winter season without low back pain and injury free.

1. Pick the Right Snow Shovel – Buy an ergonomic shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length and a lightweight, plastic blade. This will minimize the amount of bending you need to do and lessen the amount of weight you need to move.

2. Warm Up Your Body – Tight, cold muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Take five to ten minutes before you start to get your blood pumping and loosen up your joints and muscles. You can go for a brisk walk, climb some stairs or march in place and follow it up by stretching your lower back, hamstrings, arms and shoulders.

3. Pace Yourself – Shoveling small amounts of snow is less strenuous than attacking a large pile all at once. When shoveling after a snowstorm, take a break for a few minutes, every 15 minutes or whenever you feel you need to stop. Stretch your arms, shoulders and back during your breaks. Keep your loads light, don’t lift loads that are too heavy for you. Also, try shoveling in intervals, throughout the snowfall rather than waiting for all the snow to build up to unmanageable depths (and weight).

4. Use Ergonomic Lifting – Whenever possible, push the snow off to the side rather than lifting it. If you have to lift:
• have your shoulders and hips squarely facing the object you’re lifting;
• bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out; then, bend your knees and lift with your knees, legs and arms muscles, keeping your back straight;
• if you have to lift a full shovel, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible while keeping the other hand on the handle;
• avoid twisting your back; instead, pivot your whole body to face the right direction.

5. No Fancy Footwork– Winter weather often leads to slippery conditions. Wearing shoes or boots with good treads can help reduce the potential of slipping, falling or twisting and hurting yourself. Spreading ice melt or grit on your walkways can also improve traction and lower the chances of slipping.

6. Know Your Limits – If you have pre-existing back problems or any other health conditions, either invest in a snow blower or think about hiring a snow plowing service to clear the heavy snow.

Follow these tips for safe shoveling techniques next time there is a snowfall in your area and you’ll be ready to meet the snow head on and injury free.

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