How to Avoid Hurting Your Back While Shovelling Snow

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Our shovels will be out AGAIN folks, and that means that more snow–shovelling injuries are underway. While most people recognize that shoveling snow is hard work, few realize that it can actually be quite dangerous. Experts say it requires as much energy as running 9 miles per hour! Snow-shovelling also creates enormous amounts of stress and strain on your back. So, as storm # 52 “sets in”, we have outlined several tips for how to keep your back healthy while shoveling:

  •  Don’t shovel soon after you wake up. A slipped disc injury is much more likely to occur in the morning due to the build-up of fluid in the disc from lying down all night.
  • Warm-up before you start shoveling. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to strain than warm, relaxed muscles.
  • Choose a snow shovel that is right for you! : Your shovel should have a curved handle, which allows you to keep your back straighter when shoveling. The handle should be correct for you – you should be able to slightly bend your knees, flex your back 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the shoveling “stroke”. When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. By creating distance between your hands, you increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.
  • A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.
  • Push the snow, don’t lift it. Pushing puts less strain on your spine than lifting.
  • If you must lift the snow, make sure you lift properly: Squat with your feet about hip-width apart for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Your knees should be bent and back straight. Lift with your legs (bend from the knees, not from the back). Do not bend at the waist. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow.
  • Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it.  Never throw snow over your shoulder: avoid twisting movements. If you need to move the snow to one side, reposition your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.
  • Try to scoop a lot of little loads instead of fewer big ones.
  •  Pace yourself by taking frequent breaks to gently stretch your back, arms, and legs.
  • Use slip-resistant boots or wear ice shoes
  •  Spray or rub some type of lubricant on the shovel blade to keep snow from sticking to your shovel.
  • Most importantly, listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain