6 tips to protect your spine while shoveling snow
Photo credit: By Scott Catron - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5057000
Shoveling snow is hard work. Those tiny delicate flakes falling from the sky become incredibly heavy once they join their friends on the ground. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014, more than 203,000 people were treated for injuries incurred while manually shoveling snow. Back strain is one of the most common injuries. So take care when clearing your driveways and sidewalks and heed the sage advice of Dr. Kaliq Chang with the Atlantic Spine Center.
- Warm up. Before you even pick up your snow shovel, do some light stretching or calisthenics.
- Don’t wait to clear your driveway in one fell swoop, especially if significant snowfall is expected. During a storm, periodically clear away accumulations. Getting an early start helps you avoid injuries related to moving heavy, packed snow.
- Choose the right equipment. An ergonomically correct shovel will take stress off your back muscles and bent handles allow you to shovel without bending too much. Also, make sure your shovel is right for your height and strength.
- Don’t throw the snow in your shovel over your shoulder or back. When you do, the twisting motion stresses back muscles.
- Lift with proper form. When possible, push the snow instead of lifting. But if you must lift, do so with your legs and not your waist. “Try to scoop small amounts of snow and walk to where you want to dump it, rather than tossing a load, Dr. Chang says. “Hoisting a heavy shovel full of snow, which requires outstretched arms, places too much weight on the muscles surrounding the spine.”
- Boots count. Back injuries don’t just stem from shoveling snow, but also from slipping while doing so. Wear snow boots with chunky soles that tightly grip icy surfaces.