One of the most common causes for back injuries during the winter months is snow removal. Using improper body mechanics can lead to a painful muscle strain or even more serious problems such as a disc herniation. You may think you are tough, but trust me, even the toughest people can literally fall to their knees. I know–I’ve had to pick them up and put them back together again.
Ergonomic Snow Shovels
A snow shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable length can minimize bending. Also, the lighter weight shovel that you use, the less overall weight you are lifting.
Warm Up Thoroughly
Cold, tight muscles are more injury prone than warm, flexible muscles. Get your blood pumping with a brisk 5-10 minute walk or other warm-up activity, then stretch your low back and hamstrings and give yourself a hug for an upper back stretch.
Take Your Time
Take a look at the amount of snow and tailor your strategy ahead of time based on the amount of snow and its density. Adapt your pathways or take snow off the top in layers if you’re dealing with a heavier snow fall in order to reduce your load. Don’t be afraid to take a break!
Use Ergonomically Correct Lifting Techniques
Whenever possible, push snow to the side without hunching over instead of picking it up and throwing it. When lifting/throwing snow is necessary:
- Face towards the direction you are lifting/throwing and avoid twisting
- Bend at the hips and knees, not the back
- Push your chest out to keep your back straight
- For heavier loads, place one hand as close to the blade as possible
- Keep the heaviest part of the shovel close to your body
- Limit your arm extension when throwing snow
Dr. Tyler Skibba, DC, CCEP