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Proper Shoveling Techniques to Limit Back Pain

Although Long Island hasn’t had much snow this winter, it’s important to know proper snow shoveling techniques to avoid back pain shall we get a snowstorm.

During the winter months, snow shoveling is one of the more common causes of back injuries. However, this type of injury is preventable if you follow these snow removal tips:

Warm Up First

You might not think you need to warm up before shoveling snow, however, shoveling is physically equivalent to doing a workout. Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury, therefore, it’s good to stretch your lower back and hamstrings first. Then, get your blood flowing by doing a brisk walk or marching in place.

Shovel Using the Right Gear

Your shovel handle should be the right length for you – not too short – so you don’t have to bend too much. Seek out a snow shovel that has adjustable handles, so you can adjust the handle to the right length. An ergonomic snow shovel can help take some of the efforts out of snow removal as these shovels have a handle that is curved, which helps keep your back straighter, reducing spinal stress. Also, make sure the shovel you are using isn’t too heavy for you. If you find the shovel is already heavy before you even start shoveling, it is best to look for a lighter shovel. Shovels that have a plastic blade are lighter than ones that have a metal blade.

adjustable ergonomic snow shovel

Lift with Your Knees, Not Your Back

Avoid bending at the waist to scoop up the snow. Instead, bend your knees, keeping your feet apart and your back straight, as though you are in a squatting position, and use your legs to do the lifting. The proper way to grip the shovel so that it reduces strain on your back is to place one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle.

Depending how much snow is on the ground, it’s best to use the shovel to push the snow to the side as this will save your back the strain of having to lift the shovel. However, if you do have to lift the shovel, don’t scoop up so much snow that the load is too heavy for you. When dumping the snow, walk over to the area, bending again with your knees to place the snow in the new area. Never twist your back or throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side – this puts unnecessary stress on the back.

ergonomic snow shovel

Pace Yourself

Be sure to take a break for a few minutes every 15 minutes or if you feel overworked at any point. Listen to your body – if you are feeling strained or tired, take a break and use this opportunity to stretch your arms and back to keep your muscles flexible and limber. It’s also important to drink water as you shovel to keep your body hydrated.

Snow becomes dense as it compacts on the ground, so if you can, shovel throughout the day so the snow doesn’t get packed in heavily too much. Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently will be less strenuous on your body than shoveling a large pile of snow at once. It’s better to take the extra time and take breaks than to spend weeks with a hurt back.

Keep Your Feet on the Ground, Not in the Air

Slippery conditions while shoveling can lead to slipping and falling, which leads to a strain or back injury. Snow boots with good treads and spreading salt or kitty litter on your sidewalk/driveway will increase traction, helping to minimize slipping.

Keeping these proper snow shoveling techniques in mind during the winter season will lessen the chances of developing new back problems or worsening your already existing back pain.

 
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