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Posted on 01-15-2015

Important Tips to Avoid Back Pain While Shoveling Snow

I wrote this blog post last year regarding how to appropriately shovel snow so as to avoid injury. With the impending winter weather it bears repeating.

First tip: Make sure you are physically capable of a work out. A recent article by the Baltimore Sun found here details the death of several men in Howard County who died of apparent heart attacks while shoveling. No one really ever plans on having a heart attack, but it speaks to the bigger issue that shoveling is really a work out. With any work out, make sure you are physically fit enough to do it before you begin. Consult your physician if you are not sure.

Second Tip: Warm up. As with any other work out you want to make sure that you are ready for exertion. Make sure to stretch your back before beginning any work out so you do not strain a muscle. Even a few jumping jacks will get you appropriately warmed up quickly.

Third Tip: Use the right tool. For light dustings of snow I prefer a push broom which avoids repetitive bending or lifting. If you need to use a shovel to pick up snow, make sure you have a sturdy but light weight shovel. Often the big, heavy, industrial shovels are way more than is necessary to clear snow, resulting in increased weight to carry and often times increased back pain as a result.

Fourth Tip: Use Proper Biomechanics. As with any dreaded tasks there is a desire to rush through it and "just get it done." The problem with taking this approach while shoveling is that it is often the cause of increased back pain and visits to my chiropractic office. As with all heavy lifting, make sure to bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back. If you have to move snow to one location make sure that you turn your entire body (avoid twisting at the waist). Typically, if you throw the snow over your shoulder the increased twisting at your waist while carrying a heavy load will cause an increase in lower back pain.

Fifth Tip: Find a friend with a Snow Blower. In the best case scenario you may have a friend or relative with a snow blower. This will allow a machine to do all the heavy lifting and help save your back. If you are a friend that has a snow blower, please remember to help out the elderly and less fortunate by clearing their sidewalks and driveways.

While most of these tips are straightforward and probably pretty obvious, you might be surprised how often my phone rings with patients who did not take proper precautions and now have acute lower back or neck pain from shoveling.

If you, or anyone you know has suffered from back pain or neck pain while shoveling, please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We would be happy to help!

Dr. Gulitz

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