It’s that time of year again! According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2015, more than 158,000 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually. Snow shoveling is a common cause for back pain and lumbar injuries, however there are ways to prevent these from occurring. Proper mechanics and technique can help decrease post-shoveling low back pain.
- Lift with your legs, not your back!
- When shoveling snow we tend to bend forward putting a lot of stress on the lumbar spine, which increases the risk of injury or flare up of low back pain. In order to prevent this, try to squat down by bending at your knees lift the snow using your legs instead of your back.
- Turn with your feet
- When we twist with our feet planted we are mostly twisting using our low back. A better way to turn with a heavy load is to keep the core tight and lock the arms into your side while pivoting using your feet. Using these mechanics will help decrease load on the spine and help prevent injury.
- Grip snow shovel with hands apart
- Gripping the shovel with your hands together can create a longer lever arm, which in turn makes it harder to lift the shovel filled with snow. Having one hand toward the handle and one hand further down towards the shovel will improve force distribution and decrease stress on the body while snow shoveling. It will make the pile of snow seem like less than it is.
- Take breaks
- Muscle fatigue can cause our mechanics to break down, putting us at risk for injury. Be sure to take plenty of breaks in order to keep your muscles in good condition and maintain good mechanics.
- Shovel smaller loads of snow
- Only shovel a load you can handle while maintaining all the mechanics above. If the load is too heavy and compensations are occurring, your mechanics suffer. When mechanics suffer, the risk for injury increases. Only shovel loads you can handle!
Safe snow shoveling is important to prevent injuries that will affect the ability to participate in daily life. It is important to maintain proper mechanics and decrease risk of injury in order to stay healthy and active throughout the winter.