Suffering a back injury when shoveling snow is common. Every year 11,000 Americans will go to the hospital after shoveling snow, and back injuries, heart attacks and broken bones are some of the most common reasons for their visits, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. If you have delayed buying the expensive snowblower at the home improvement store and now you are paying the price with an achy, sore back, read the following tips to protect your back when digging out after the next snowstorm. |
Purchase a High-Quality Snow Shovel
Snow shovels come in a multitude of styles and sizes, and one size might not fit all. You should purchase a shovel fit to your body size, or find a shovel with an adjustable handle length. The handle should reach up to your chest. Short handles are not ideal because you must bend farther to lift the snow.
Ergonomic snow shovels with bent or curved handles reduce the energy needed to lift snow and assist in keeping your spine straight. Make sure the shovel you choose has a metal tip on the end of the plastic blade to increase sturdiness. Be aware that the metal ridge might mark up your deck or stairs, so a smaller plastic shovel should be used to clear those spaces.
Buy Sturdy Boots
Spinal stability starts in your feet. Slipping when lifting a heavy shovelful of snow could result in a slipped disc or worse. Make sure the boots fit you and have thick rubber treads. Spread ice melt as you clear away snow. Balance is essential when scooping snow.
Warm Up With Light Exercise
A round of jumping jacks and a stretching session can help your muscles warm up before you tackle your snow-covered driveway. Shoveling snow is an intense physical activity. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person burns 223 calories for every 30 minutes of snow shoveling. To put that fact in perspective, a 155 pound person only burns 112 calories during 30 minutes of weight-lifting. Shoveling snow is hard work and you should not begin without a proper warm-up.
Shoveling Techniques to Minimize Back Strain
Keep your hands spread apart on the shovel’s handle for an equal distribution of weight. Make sure your feet are squared directly under your shoulders.
Whenever possible, push the snow to clear it rather than lifting it. You will expend less energy, and this technique is much less taxing on your back. When you must lift the snow, bend at the knees and use your leg muscles to hoist the weight.
Never twist your spine and toss the snow behind you. Causing your spine to move out of its normal alignment while holding a heavy load wears on the muscles and bones.
Your lower back is the most affected by snow shoveling. To reduce pain and injury to this area, toss the shovelful of snow in front of you and step forward with one foot as you do so, resisting the urge to extend your arms too far. This will help balance the weight.
Don’t Be a Hero
You are certain to exhaust your endurance if you try to shovel more than a few inches all at once. Don’t overload your shovel. Skim one layer from the top then move on to the bottom layer. If you are winded or experiencing any kind of back pain, take a break.
Use this information to keep your back healthy throughout the precipitous winter season. Pay attention to your body’s signals and understand that overloading your spine could result in a debilitating back injury when shoveling snow.
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