Shoveling Snow? Here’s How to Protect Your Back

Shoveling Snow? Here’s How to Protect Your Back

That beautiful white landscape has a hidden bite, but you can avoid it.

In many parts of North America spring is here, or just around the corner. But winter hasn’t spoken its last word in snow country, and that means more shoveling.

Even just a little snow can spell back problems. Clearing the driveway can be good exercise but experts say it also presents the perfect storm for bad news. Factors that can trigger back problems are ripe for the picking; intense upper-body exertion, cold temperatures, and movement on slippery surfaces.

“When we take out our snow shovels,” observes Dr. Kaliq Chang, MD with Atlantic Spine Center, “we also need to consider the phrase, ‘Watch your back.’ Every year, thousands of people get hurt clearing snow – most often injuring their backs.”

Related: Should You Go Barefoot in the Snow?

According to statistics, up to 80% of American adults will experience an episode of lower back pain that leads to disability and missed work at least once in their lives, and doctors see than 150,000 snow-shovel-related injuries a year.

What can you do to avoid injuring yourself and being losing time recovering? For starters, Dr. Chang advises that you treat shoveling like you would a workout at the gym. Warm up, stretch, hydrate and take breaks while doing it.

Have the right equipment on hand to get the job done. “Not all shovels are created equal,” notes Dr. Chang. “Select a shovel that fits our body in terms of our height and hands. It should be strong but not too heavy, as well as suited to properly moving snow.”

And finally, use the right technique and get started early. Push your snow as much as possible instead of lifting. Avoid bending at the waist (take it at the knees), and keep a wide base with your legs apart. Aim for many small loads over fewer big ones. When you can, avoid reaching, twisting or throwing loads of snow, which puts extra strain where you don’t need it.

Already have back problems? Hire someone else to clear the path, and keep yourself in good hands.

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